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August 25, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

DARK AND STORMY RIDES AGAIN: The Best (?) From the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest compiled by Scott Rice (Penguin: $8.95, 122 pp., illustrated, paperback original). The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges entrants to come up with "the opening sentence for the worst of all possible novels" in honor of Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose "Paul Clifford" opens, "It was a dark and stormy night." This fifth volume of entries is silly but often funny, although the judges seem to have fallen asleep at the helm: Some contestants simply make bad puns instead of beginning a novel, and one steals a quip from Dorothy Parker without giving credit. As Rice notes, these sentences may qualify as "the literary equivalent of making loud noises with one's armpits."

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