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The Worst Opening Sentence Written This Year Has Officially Been Found

Laundry, missing husbands, salami—this terrible sentence has it all!

Salami products from Volpi Foods.

Once upon a time, in 1830, Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford with the line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Ever since, human beings have been simultaneously delighted and disturbed by just how awful a writer could begin their novels.

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This fascination was officially recognized in 1982, when the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest was established. Every year, the BLFC “has challenged participants to write an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written.” And this year’s winner is truly something else.

Behold, a tale in three parts.

“I knew she was trouble the second she walked into my 24-hour deli, laundromat, and detective agency, and after dropping a load of unmentionables in one of the heavy-duty machines (a mistake that would soon turn deadly) she turned to me, asking for two things: find her missing husband and make her a salami on rye with spicy mustard, breaking into tears when I told her I couldn’t help—I was fresh out of salami.”

John Farmer, winner of the 40th Annual Lyttoniad

Jesus! Wham, bam, shabam! It opens with a kick and ends with a slap. I can’t get over the artistry of this sentence. It’s like an improv skit gone wrong, gone right.

In fact, it’s so hilariously good that I’d probably be tempted to read this hypothetical novel in its entirety. But maybe that just says something bad about my taste. All I know is, I, too, would break into tears if the deli guy was out of salami.

John Farmer, whoever you are, wherever you are, I gotta say, your sense of comedic timing and pacing is so good, it puts SNL’s current writers to shame.

For more context regarding this contest, here’s the Tumblr post that clued me into it in the first place:

It’s just banger after banger with this competition, isn’t it? Can’t believe I didn’t hear about it sooner. I want an entire book compilation of this shit.

What’s especially interesting is they do it by genre, too. Farmer’s ol’ Salami Special was the grand winner, but there were other contestants who won by subgenre. For instance, this was the “Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award” winner:

And so the two pachyderms with the same first name met, and they formed the jazz duo legend known as the Elephants Gerald.

Brent Guernsey

Fucking spectacular. And here’s the Adventure winner:

“Hoist the mainsail ye accursed swine” shouted the Captain over the roar of the waves as the ship was tossed like a cork dropped from a wine bottle into a jacuzzi when the faucet is wide open and the jets are running full blast and one has just settled into the water with a glass of red wine to ease the aches and pains after a day of hard labor raking leaves from the front yard.

Joe Tussey

Oh my god.

For the full page of 2022 winners, click this link here. And treat yourself to a rundown of their past winners, too.

Honestly, I’ve started and scrapped so many novels, this may just be my calling. Watch out for yourself, Farmer. I’m comin’ for that prize.

(Featured Image: Volpi Foods)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).

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