Bad writing worse

She has “slaughtered sparrows and the English language”, they say, and have awarded her for the “crappiest of sentences”. They are generous, “How can there be good literature if there was no bad literature?” Aw. It is like saying how can you have good mangoes unless there are bad mangoes. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for 2011 has chosen Wisconsin professor Sue Fondrie for her “her 26-word sentence”.

Here it is:

“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”

Okay, it isn’t the best of sentences, not even good. But is the verbosity a problem? And how many sparrows have been slaughtered? I have read sentences that run into paragraphs. We also apply the word literature carelessly. Does it mean all of published work or is there a standard, like high art or classical music? Don’t we expect a hush to fall when we hear lit-er-a-ture enunciated in high-ceilinged libraries with tomes of men and women who chiseled words to sculpt a story? Guess what? I just composed a 26-word sentence. Had this line been in a book, would it be doomed?

I am tired of saying that language evolves, people in different parts of the world talk in varied tongues, think and dream in lingos that are not universal even within the standard English category.

We have the Bad Sex Writing Award and I find it amusing because when there can be bad sex why should the writing elevate it always?

I would like to give Fondrie a more holistic treatment. Outside of this sentence, do we know anything about Cheryl’s mind? Maybe it did turn – would it sound better if instead of turning it churned or lashed? Her thoughts being sparrow-like could mean they were chirping in small voices or were just small, niggling, pecking at grains. However, there had to be bloody pieces. Why? Because when there is an addition to forgotten memories the new entrants need to show that they have met with death. Blood is a potent symbol of it. Lashing winds and churning cannot draw out blood, so the turbine comes into the picture.

Anyhow, here are two possible versions.

A minimalist, often a fine creature, but when following a trend just settles for a quickie, might say it like this:

Cheryl’s thoughts became history.

The writer of erotica would write:

Cheryl’s thoughts palpitated even as her breasts felt raw after the night that left her drained from the vanes of the wind-powered turbine that had roughed her up. Her desires fluttered sparrow-like despite the hangover the morning after. She ran her hands over the sore skin and felt a trace of blood, its trail went all the way to the door. He had left long ago, adding to the growing pile of forgotten memories. She went back to the wind-powered turbine.

Now, I await my award with bated - and baited - breath. 

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