In Competition No. 2769 you were invited to supply the first paragraph/s of the imaginary sequel to a well-known novel.
The literary sequel is thriving, fuelled by readers’ hunger to know more. In recent times, such distinguished names as P.D. James (Jane Austen), Andrew Motion (R.L. Stevenson), Sebastian Faulks (Ian Fleming) and Anthony Horowitz (Conan Doyle) have taken a literary baton and run with it.
So it was unsurprising that the challenge pulled in the punters. In general the standard was high, though some entries read more like the synopsis of a sequel than its opening. Honourable mentions go to John Mounsey, Sylvia Smith, Alan Millard and Josh Ekroy. I also liked Katie Mallett’s Jack Merridew plausibly reincarnated as a Manhattan Master of the Universe and Barry Baldwin’s unlucky Jim Dixon. The winners earn £25 each. George Simmers takes £30.
For five years had Christian lived in the Celestial City whose jewelled walls forever rang with sounds of prayer and thanksgiving. Each morning he awoke and praised God mightily, and each day he spent in voicing happy adoration of his Maker. Every evening he would sit listening to jubilant hosannas chanted by women of radiant purity, all garbed in white. For this is a city of goodness, and nothing unclean will enter it, nor any who does abominable things (Rev 21:27). And one day he muttered unto himself: ‘There must be more to life.’ He remembered then some words once whispered to him by Mr. Nudgenudge, that far distant in the Goodtime Valley, there might be found ladies of a more flexible morality and less absolute virtue. Therefore did he determine to slip out quietly one evening, and discover what else the world might have to offer.
George Simmers/The Pilgrim’s Progress
With Chuzzlewit’s twelfth appearance, Tony reckoned he must be past fifty, so Mr Todd must be eighty. In the jungle climate, he must die soon. Theoretically, Tony would be free to go; but he must by now be legally dead, and his cousin — Richard, was it? — making horrible changes to Hetton. Tony’s old dream of a return to soft beds and claret seemed effete now. He needed Mr Todd as much as Mr Todd had needed him. The Pie-wie had been taught to avoid him, but the boy who brought his farine and tasso displayed a friendly curiosity. Perhaps in time he could be taught to read. And with Mr Todd gone, it wouldn’t have to be Dickens. When he had the run of the packages in the loft, there might be a cache of Trollopes, maybe an early Galsworthy. His eyes began to moisten at the prospect.
Noel Petty/A Handful of Dust
Mr Leopold Bloom ripped the page from his calendar. Time, he thought, is inexorable in its modality and today dawns, the seventeenth according to our measuring system, whereas yesterday was the sixteenth. Today, he thought, I shall eat a vegetarian breakfast. What about you, Pushkin? Mniaauuu, said the cat briefly, stalking round the square table leg. What a Gorki Pushkin it is, said Leopold Bloom, bending to stroke. Overdid it yesterday. Take it more easefully today. He heard the jingle-jangle from above. Might she run off with? — Man to meet and greet in Grafton street. One more for my list. Where’s my pen? He went with a can in quest for milk. Squish. Squish. Jingle-jangle. Mrrrniaauuu. Kerith. Ithka. Hallo, Mr Boyle. Another fine day. To be sure, Mr Bloom. Pen? Elope? Ithaca.
Call me Moby. Many moons ago — I have no idea how many — and having nothing better to do than bite off the leg of a raving lunatic, and head-butt a strange wooden contraption that was chasing me, I resolved to mooch across the expanse that I alone inhabit, singing a variety of sonic compositions. You may, doubtless, imagine my surprise when a lascivious invitation reached me from afar, together with jolly explanations of how I might beget another in my own likeness. Ah! that explained the sensation of longing deep within me, and the purpose of my mysterious, extensible truncheon. I accounted it my destiny to manoeuvre my belly that I might raise a modest family, one single offspring — and in so doing, discredit the monstrous accounts of my fellow creatures (for so they are) who sought to rope and pierce me. I would have a man of a time.
Marley was still dead, but after four ghostly visitations, Ebenezer Scrooge was a changed man. He raised Bob Cratchit’s salary, and was frequently observed patting small children and itinerant dogs on the head. His bank flourished, yet certain yearnings stirred within his breast. ‘Why should a bank’, he mused, ‘be merely the repository of other people’s money? Could we not, by investing wisely in the market, increase our returns, and those of our depositors?’ So began an era of speculative investment, prudent at first, yet increasingly ungoverned, unscrupulous, and finally ruinous. Summoning Bob Cratchit, Scrooge informed him that in view of the bank’s enormous losses, he was sadly obliged to let Cratchit go, and that his financial support for Tiny Tim could no longer be maintained. That night, a fifth spectral visitor appearedat the foot of his bed. ‘I’, said the grim figure, ‘am the ghost of Honest Banking.’
Nicholas Holbrook/A Christmas Carol
Winston opened the dented refrigerator obtained by giving an ambitious member of the Thought Police the name of a neighbour’s six-year-old daughter who had stuck her tongue out at the tall poster of Big Brother on the wall opposite their block of flats. Two bottles of Victory Gin stood like sentries on the only shelf. They were tokens of loyalty. Why had it taken him so long to realise that loyalty brought rewards, dissension only humiliation and punishment? Airstrip One might be depicted as a brutal tyranny by its lying enemies, but if you knew how things worked you understood that re-education meant happiness. O’Brien had known it from the start, of course. That’s why he was such a good mentor. Winston laughed derisively at the thought of his old self, a man who didn’t even have one bottle of gin or a fridge that worked.
G.M. Davis/Nineteen Eighty-Four
No. 2772: culinary comparison
You are invited to supply a review of a foodstuff, which might appear in a foodie magazine, likening it to a well-known person, living or dead (150 words max.). Please email entries, wherever possible, to email@example.com by midday on 7 November.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 27 October 2012