Everyone loves a bad writer. There is, after all, nothing really like a satisfyingly trashy read to put you in good humour. But the fact that it takes real talent and skills honed over years to produce award-winning bad prose would have been knowledge denied to the world if Jim Gleeson from Madison, Wisconsin, hadn’t taken a bow at the San Jose State University’s 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest this week. Gleeson is the deserving recipient of the ‘bad writing’ prize for having toiled over the opening line of an imaginary novel which describes a man interrupted while urinating.
While acknowledging his college’s role in preparing him with syntaxical bloopers for his 15 minutes, he also revealed the secret to becoming a popular bad writer: “It’s like you take two thoughts that are not anything like each other and you cram them together by any means necessary.” Hah, and all these years, you’d thought that James Joyce was a natural!
If Gleeson’s practised pen isn’t proof enough that the literary world is turning upside down, certainly the roaring applause for his ilk is. We’ve already been honouring writers of ‘bad sex’ for several years now. And in Scotland, fans of 19th century bad poet William McGonagall — whose signature style was an umbrella to ward off the tomatoes thrown at him — now want him put in the pantheon of the nation’s literary greats. There is, as Gleeson informed us, method to the madness. Hmmm, guess nobody is trashing their copies of Joyce anymore.