Competition

Spectator competition winners: racy versions of the classics

24 April 2021

9:00 AM

24 April 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3195, you were invited to submit an extract from the racier, mass-market version of a well-known literary novel. Speaking at Bath Literature festival in 2015, the author Fay Weldon suggested that writers should write two versions of their books, a high-minded one for print, and a more accessible page-turner for e-readers: ‘Writers have to write now for a world where readers are busy, on the move and have little time for contemplation and reflection…’

Those whose hectic lives and shot attention spans preclude hours devoted to ploughing through the meaty originals can enjoy instead your alternative versions. Brian Murdoch lightens the considerable load of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain: ‘Hans Castorp looked out at the snow and wondered if he should go for another long philosophical walk. “Sod it,” he thought, “there’s only two things I want, and one is a stiff drink.”’


Honourable mentions also go to Basil Ransome-Davies, David Shields and J.C.H. Mounsey. The winners take £30 each.

After the sempstresses had measured the circumference of my thumb and withdrawn to calculate therefrom the other dimensions of my person, one of their number returned alone and expressed a desire to make a more intimate calibration of my parts. As I disrobed and lowered myself to the floor to accommodate her wishes, I perceived she was making haste to remove her garments and apply an ointment to her unclad body. She was as comely, in miniature, as any painting or sculpture of the female form in Europe’s great museums. I lifted her carefully on to my bare thigh and noted as her measuring hands aroused me that her stature was nearly equal to that of the organ she addressed. Wordlessly, she sprang to embrace me with both arms and legs and commenced a nimble twisting and sliding action. The resultant sensation was entirely unlike anything in my experience.
Chris O’Carroll (Gulliver’s Travels)

The dull, flat landscape that she now surveyed elicited in Dorothea sentiments resembling those experienced during her recent honeymoon, when Mr Casaubon had denied her such intimate knowledge of his magnum opus as a wife might have expected.
 
Beneath her window the under-gardener, a young man of robust physique, was attending a neglected rose-bed. His exertions could not evade her attention. As he bent over the task his breeches were so stretched as to suggest what they concealed. A flush rose to Dorothea’s cheeks, matching the redness of her full lips. She fingered restlessly first the shining coils of her hair, then her necklace. An inner warmth, whose pulsations could no more be moderated than understood, extended even to that part of her person aptly designated, as Mr Casaubon would undoubtedly have agreed, by a derivation of the Latin word for shame.
 
Her thoughts turned impetuously to Will.
Hugh King (Middlemarch)

They locked up the office, and Farfrae followed Henchard through the private little door which, admitting directly into Henchard’s secret garden, permitted a passage from the utilitarian to the languorous at one step. The garden was silent, dewy, and perfumed. It extended a long way from the house, from which beds of wide-throated arum lilies led to a damp dell, bosky with decay —earthballs, stinkhorns and the splayed palms of devil’s fingers — and prinked with lolling hart’s tongues. A baroque erection of wrought iron separated this mossy haven from the fruit garden, where the long-tied espaliers had become sinuous and muscled, and had torn their stakes out of the ground and stood writhing in vegetable agony, veined from root to crown with honeysuckle, the sensuous cyma-recta curve of their lichenous boughs garlanded with mistletoe. Henchard turned to look at his Scotchman. ‘Farfrae. I like ye well.’
Nick MacKinnon (The Mayor of Casterbridge)

‘Look, Captain,’ said Starbuck, exasperated, ‘you can’t go seeking vengeance against a fish. It’s crazy.’
 
Yawning, Ahab scratched his rippling muscled chest, which included the tattoo ‘Nantucket Girls Love My Harpoon’. ‘Don’t mess with me, Starbuck. Moby-Dick bit off my leg and I’m taking the bastard down. What’s your take on it, Ishmael?’
 
I sighed. ‘Don’t you think, Captain, that Moby-Dick is a great leviathan, symbolic of fate, our fear manifested in animal form, the destruction of the world’s environment by humankind’s commercial greed, or possibly God Himself?’
 
Silence. Ahab glared. ‘None of that Greenpeace hippie crap, Ishmael. A thing about a whale; he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.’
 
‘Don’t you mean sharks?’
 
At that moment, Moby-Dick breached the waves, opened his jaws and chomped a piece out of the Pequod’s bow.
 
Ahab sighed. ‘Sharks, hell. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’
Janine Beacham/Moby-Dick

Signora Neroni shifted provocatively on her sofa. ‘Do you come, Mr Slope,’ she asked, ‘to make love or for business? You men seem to regard the word “love” as an open sesame to unlock our hearts and reveal all our treasures.’
 
Mr Slope’s blush matched the colour of his hair. He felt himself swelling with desire. ‘Signora!’ he cried. ‘My own heart is —’
 
‘Pshaw! Look me in the face and tell me you love me.’
 
‘Oh, Mariline!’ he sighed, sinking to one knee and taking her hand. ‘I swear it.’
 
‘Don’t perjure yourself, Mr Slope. I think you plan to marry another, for money. And really I care nothing about that. But you may kiss my cheek if it pleases you.’
 
With her words like whiplashes upon him, Mr Slope retired from the fray, a beaten man. ‘But that,’ he thought on reflection, ‘is not a totally unpleasing sensation.’
W.J. Webster (Barchester Towers)

No. 3198: now we are rich

You are invited to supply an extract from a children’s book that is designed to explain economics to youngsters. Please email entries of up to 150 words/16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 5 May.

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