It was a middling dark and soon-to-be stormy night, last Saturday evening at the Bulwer Community Centre. It was the Bulwer Purple Prose Awards Supper. And emcee Ross Murray set the stage with some Townships-soaked purple prose of his own.
“We are here tonight to put the bull back in Bulwer. Maybe you’re not Sherbrooke why you came or maybe you think this contest doesn’t have a leg to Stanstead on. Maybe you’re grumpy because you got your Ascot in the door coming here tonight. But whether your goose is Coaticooked or you’re Compton your chickens before they hatched, or if you don’t Knowlton whether you’re coming or going, whether you’re a poor man or a Richmond, don’t come here tonight thinking, “Magog, what have I done,” because I promise every child, woman and Mansonville, that while you’re Eaton your dinner, we’re going to do Asbestos we can tonight to have a wonderful time before the evening is Dunham. And if not? Waterloo going to do about it?”
The crowd roared and clapped.
It was a smaller crowd than last year, just 63. Some storm-sky souls didn’t show up, said Peggy Roy, worried about the huge snowstorm slated to begin later that night. But still, the benefit event for the Bulwer Community Centre brought in about $1300. “We’re happy to do it. It brought in a different crowd. We were pleased,” she said. “The people that came enjoyed themselves.”
The music wowed them. The five-man Mostly Swing group. And the Bulwerian bass and fiddle duo, Janice LaDuke and Dave Gillis.
The spread was hearty, starring beef, pork, vegetarian “meat” loaf, an array of cheeses, breads, vegetables, salads, and scrumptious desserts. All prepared by Peggy Grapes and her Bulwer Committee.
And then the awards. Jackie Hyman of Sawyerville won the Grand Pittance for overall best first sentence to the worst novel ever. She also took first prize in the Local History category. And here is the winning sentence, semi-colon and all:
“Exhausted and disheartened, his heavy pack sat heavy as a lie on the conscience of an honest man after six days of rough and tumble slogging o’er sylvan woods and rippling brooks, and thus, Joshua Foss, tired, worn and frustrated, shuffled off the coil of his serpentine journey through the wilds of New England towards the urbane city of Montreal by erupting, like the pit of an overripe chokecherry squeezed out by a child’s fat hand, into the centre of the village of Eaton Corner which, he was delighted to discover, was in the thralls of a rather luridly beautiful autumnal season making the unpleasant memory of his arduous journey disappear in a puff of sunlight filtering through the falling leaves; he decided to stay.”
In the Adventure category, David Oliver won first pittance, and Carole Martignacco came in second. For Crime/Mystery, David Oliver took First again, and Judy Palmer, Second. Taking the Pittance in the Fantasy section was Jaime Dunton, with Mead Baldwin in second place. For Legends, Susan Mastine won first prize, and David Oliver won second.
Second place in the Local History category went to Judy Palmer. And finally, Beverly Dame and Maurice Crossfield got the first and second prize in the Romance category.
Several of the winning sentences were inspired by current events – the elections, the thought of referendum, and the Lac-Mégantic train disaster, for example. Others related to figures from the region’s history – Joshua Foss, Donald Morrison the Megantic Outlaw, and William Stone, for example. All were verbose, convoluted, and judging from the applause and laughter, funny.
The whole Bulwer Purple Prose Project – now in its second year – was inspired, of course, by writer and politician Lord Bulwer-Lytton. He visited Willliams Corner in the mid-1800s, and then the place was re-named in his honour. Thus Bulwer came into being. Bulwer-Lytton’s entire name was “Lord Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton.” “His very name needed an editor,” Ross Murray joked.
“For ‘twas this privileged peer who put pen to paper and produced perhaps, for the period, the most profoundly pompous and perplexingly problematic prologue to the prose that proceeded.”
This year’s organizing committee was Mead Baldwin, Wanda Dillabough, Rachel Garber, Jerome Krause, Janice LaDuke of Black Cat Books, Michelle Lapitre, Linda Morra, Judy Palmer and Peggy Roy. The Centre d’Action Benevole du Haut St Francois contributed $100, printing and door prizes. Dick Tracy made the trophies, wooden pedestals sporting a now-rare Canadian penny.
- Rachel Garber