Saturday, July 30, 2005

Monkey Paintings And Bad Writing

The Painting Monkey, 1740.
Jean Simon Chardin

Two of my guiltiest pleasures are collecting Monkey Paintings - especially those that have been passed off to critics as authentic human projects - and examples of bad writing - of which I have a huge personal collection.

Untitled, 1957.

In 1957, animal behaviorist Desmond Morris organized an exhibition of chimpanzee art at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, including works by Congo. Critics reacted with a mixture of scorn and skepticism, but Picasso is recorded as having owned a painting by Congo.


The winners of the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been announced.

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.

Dan McKay
Fargo, ND

A 43-year-old quantitative analyst for Microsoft Great Plains is the winner of the 23rd running of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. A resident of Fargo, North Dakota, McKay is currently visiting China, perhaps to escape notoriety for his dubious literary achievement.

His entry, extolling a subject that has engaged poets for millennia, may have been inspired by Roxie Hart of the musical "Chicago." Complaining of her husband's ineptitude in the boudoir, Roxie laments, "Amos was . . . zero. I mean, he made love to me like he was fixing a carburetor or something."

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The contest began in 1982 as a quiet campus affair, attracting only three submissions. This response being a thunderous success by academic standards, the contest went public the following year and ever since has attracted thousands of annual entries from all over the world.

My next favorite is in the Children's Category: Dishonorable Mentions

Because of her mysterious ways I was fascinated with Dorothy and I wondered if she would ever consider having a relationship with a lion, but I have to admit that most of my attention was directed at her little dog Toto because, after all, he was a source of meat protein and I had had enough of those damn flying monkeys.

Randy Blanton
Murfreesboro, TN
There are plenty more for your displeasure.

(via /.)

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