In Competition No. 3050 you were invited to submit a school essay written by a well-known author, living or dead, about one of their works. The germ of this challenge was the revelation that the novelist Ian McEwan helped his son to write an A-level essay about one of his books (Enduring Love), only to be awarded a less than stellar ‘C+’. The winners below did rather better, and shoot straight to the top of the class, scooping £25 each. Teacher’s pet Alison Zucker gets a well-done sticker and the bonus fiver.
I read The Outsider today. Or maybe it was yesterday, I can’t remember. I don’t think very much happened in it, though there may have been a murder at some point. Or not. I don’t care either way. I struggle to understand why M. Camus bothered to write the thing. It’s just a pattern of ink on a series of pages, devoid of interest and unworthy of attention. What purpose is it supposed to serve? In our school any pupil who doesn’t hand in his French literature essay risks failing the term, but what does that matter? The sun is so bright that it’s stopping me from thinking properly, so I’ve decided to abandon the whole absurd exercise and spend the time staring at the sea instead, ostentatiously smoking cigarettes out of the corner of my mouth.
The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy is a quite remarkable book. This is not because it is about a wholly remarkable Book — Quagg Furfeljurp’s What It’s Made Of: The Bible Dissected to Molecular Level beat it to that accolade by some light years. Neither is it because of the extraordinary cosmos it describes, the phantasmagorical characters it follows or the wryly fatalistic philosophy their misadventures illustrate. No, it is remarkable for the fact that its author completed it.