Bulwer-Lytton Lives!

We stood in line, the splash of the street lamp in the chill summer fog making an island of us: there was the prostitute, chain smoking and immune to the cold in her fishnet stockings and yellow plastic miniskirt, hair in disarray and eyes only shadows; there was a young couple, junkies with colored hair leaning against each other for support, feet spread wide in a perfect square, holding each other in some half-remembered habit of intimacy or perhaps just attached by some of the hardware adorning their once-chic clothing; there was the derelict, lying in his own foul cloud, sprawled against a building in a twitching parody of death, unsure where the next bottle would come from but knowing it would come; there were the other assorted bums, lowlifes, and losers swimming to the shore of our island but moving on again after a while, lacking patience or still possessing hope; and there was me.

8 thoughts on “Bulwer-Lytton Lives!

  1. It should be “and there was I” at the end.

    And the Bulwer-Lytton people consider it cheating when you combine many independent clauses using colons and semicolons. Work on subordinating.

  2. That and you started with the “we” at the beginning, what happened to the other person? Did s/he get bored with your sentence and leave?

  3. Maybe the narrator has a tapeworm. But then, the undefined “we” standing in an undefined “line” would probably go over well with the Bulwer-Lytton judges.

  4. The we is I and the others in line. Me is a member of the list: there was a whore, some junkies, a bum, other losers, and me. Should that be I?

    Not too concerned with the actual judges of the contest, I have a feeling lists are considered the easy way out.

  5. For the purposes of the Bulwer-Lytton people, you get rid of that oh-so-efficient parallelism, and you make each listing of your fellow in-liners (some of whom aren’t actually standing, but that’s OK) into a subordinate clause.

  6. Well, I guess the way I read your sentence is that you and some other unnamed person where standing in line, and the rest of the people you wrote about, the prostitute (why would she be standing in line), the junkies (barely standing), and the bums (obviously not in line) whirled around the mysterious “we” (thus far unexplained) in the line, on your island in the fog, waiting for something – but for what, and who else was actually in the line, who are the ‘we?’

  7. I’ll let you and Edmund decide that one, pL. I got plenty of The I of the Me yesterday. That the paragraph does not explain everything leaves something for the rest of the story.

  8. As a grammatical issue, whenever you have a “there is/are” construction, the noun that follows the verb is actually the subject of the sentence. For example:

    There are more than 20,000 students at TVI.

    To figure out what the subject is, you reorganize the sentence:

    More than 20,000 students are there at TVI.

    Using that same technique, you discover that “There was me” doesn’t make sense, since it rearranges itself to “Me was there.” Great if you are Cookie Monster, but not if you’re a literate speaker of English.

    Another reason to use “I”: If you’re doing a really good Bulwer-Lytton, you must use excruciatingly correct English.

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