The call for letters from a fictional character to his, hers or its creator complaining about their portrayal brought in a mammoth entry bristling with outrage.
John Milton was bombarded with complaints by the thoroughly hacked-off cast of Paradise Lost. Wodehouse, too, got it in the neck from a parade of cheesed-off Bertie Woosters (Aunt Agatha wasn’t overly happy either). The Grinch gave both barrels to Dr Seuss (‘To be here in You-ville does NOT make me happy’). And Billy Bunter called out Frank Richards for fat-shaming.
There were sparkling performances from Mae Scanlan, Roger Rengold, C.J. Gleed, Robert Schechter, J. Seery and Max Ross. The excellent entries printed below earn their authors £25 each.
Weak and weary, ever yearning, when the
midnight oil is burning;
In a rare trochaic meter bygone sorrows you
As you sit there ruminating, pondering your
woes, I’m stating
That I find it nauseating, this obsession with
For you treat me with derision, eulogise your
Sadly, not your only flaw.
Perching on the bust of Pallas, I’m appalled that
you’re so callous:
‘Grim, ungainly, ghastly fowl’ — words that cut
me to the core,
For my mood is bright and cheery, resting in my
sculptured eyrie —
You portray me gaunt and scary, calumny that I
Character assassination drove me from your
Burn that poem, I implore!
Imprimis: Sir, you chose to withhold my given name, whereas fellow-travellers in your ‘tale of one city’ were accorded theirs. Secondly, you cast me as a scoundrel: au contraire, I provided sustenance, accommodation and gainful employ for London’s dispossessed youth. What finer start in life than to learn the ropes from experienced hands? Master Oliver received exemplary guidance in the ways of the world, under team leaders William and Agnes Sikes. His mentor, Arthur Dodger, empowered him with core survival skills. I have long embraced the enterprise culture: as an humble private-sector entrepreneur, I deserved better treatment. I, a major player in our burgeoning self-help society, can foresee the future of this great nation. Yet you callously dispatched me to jig on the Tyburn-tree; heinous justice indeed. Beware lest the British public brand you the villain.
Respectfully yours, Boaz J. Fagin.
Dear Mr Wodehouse, Forgive the intrusion on your literary efforts but a chap at the Drones took me aside and dropped this into my shell-like. Apparently one of his more beady-eyed and bookish Aunts has spotted a more than passing likeness to yours truly, especially in the name department, and had asked if I was — she has the tongue of a grapefruit knife on heat — ‘the idiot in question’. This stung the old ego a smidgeon, as you can imagine. Could you oblige and butter up the jolly old self-portrait a bit? Not to the Einstein class, obviously, but somewhere above the ‘goofy ass’ set; I’m not a Fink-Nottle, after all. We Woosters have our pride. My man Jeeves could give you some tips in the intelligence department if you’re stuck in the writer’s block. A nasty place, I’m told.
No hard feelings, Bertram Wooster
Happy Christmas! Or maybe it’s Hanukkah:
Mr K, may I lodge a complaint —
Am I really Blattella germanica?
A cockroach? Oh say that I ain’t —
Any change ought to be for the better —
But here I am, monstrous and verminous.
Dear Sir, I’d be ever your debtor
If your plot didn’t head for this terminus.
I have a nice job — it is clerical —
And it pays for my family’s habitat:
I don’t want to sound too hysterical —
But what if you made me a tabby-cat?
I see a great future: it’s mega,
I shall star in surreal two-reelers —
But why not a rabbit called Gregor?
I just thought I’d put out some feelers.
Dear Sir, May I respectfully and humbly request that you cease your following me about. I have seen you in the milking parlour and elsewhere, making notes and staring hard at me. We have not been introduced, and I do not welcome such attentions. I may have had some misfortunate experiences in the past but they are behind me, and I wish now to merely earn an honest living as a milkmaid. This is proving difficult because of your presence, which has been noted and commented upon by others. I know that the other women are talking, which is not good for my reputation or for my prospects. Only the other day I heard that Moll Winthrop muttering: ‘She’s fated to come to a bad end. Always happens to young women that Mr Hardy takes an interest in.’
Yours truly, Tess Durbeyfield
Oh pitiless bore. Oh monster. Oh Milton —
With bum-numbing dullness you dared to create
Unreadable screed, a dirge that dumps guilt on
Me for intriguing with devious Satan.
Yet never a word on my manual labour
While hitched to a hick with his mind on
Nor, worse, on the curse of the Lord as our
All-knowing, all-nosy and past all enduring.
Yes I fell for the Serpent but ask no one’s
Since tedious Eden had driven me crazy;
And I thrilled to his sinuous girth in my garden
While Adam administered mulch to a daisy.
Hypocritical Milton! So yours was the worst sin,
Imposed on us all at unspeakable cost:
I merely damned millions to Hell with the first sin,
But yours is the torture called Paradise Lost.
Your next challenge is to submit an obituary for planet Earth. Please email entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 3 May.