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Spectator competition winners: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ meets Pride and Prejudice (literary mash-ups)

20 July 2019

10:37 AM

20 July 2019

10:37 AM

The germ for the latest challenge —to provide an extract that is a mash-up of two well-known works of literature — was the discovery that Middlemarch was originally two separate works: a novel about the townspeople (the Vincys, Bulstrode, etc) and a short story called ‘Miss Brooke’, which focused on the country folk. Neither worked on its own, so Eliot stitched them together and, hey presto!

I realised, reading your entries, that the brief had been ambiguous: while some of you lifted the exact text, others went for a looser approach. Both were permissible and both produced some terrific entries. Honourable mentions to Lauren Peon and Adrian Fry. The winners take £30 each.

D.A. Prince (‘Howl’ meets Pride and Prejudice)
I saw the best daughters of my generation
      destroyed by lack of fortune, maternal
            hysteria, running naked,
                  being dragged through the balls of Netherfield
      mother-fixed on future matrimony,
who bared their shoulders to flaming candles with
      radiant cool eyes hallucinating Mr Bingley,
who was universally acknowledged as singular
      and mile-high with money to burn in waste
            paper baskets and in want of a wife,
angel-headed Bennets levered up for the ancient
      heavenly connection to property,
who hollow-eyed with passion sat up talking in the
      supernatural darkness of Longbourn
            contemplating uniforms and wild
                  regiments of lust,
who contrived the fabulations of Darcy, secret
      hero of this poem, who sweetened the
            snatches of girls trembling in the
                  sunset,
who fantasised Pemberley while the sirens of
      Lady Catherine de Bourgh wailed them
            down piano-playing in despair
who overturned the entailment of fathers to the
      end of patience.

Frank McDonald (‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ meets Matthew 14:24-32)
The sun was shining on the sea
In the middle of the night
When suddenly the Carpenter
Walked on the billows bright.
And Peter said: ‘O bid me come.’
And he replied: ‘All right.’

The moon was shining sulkily
Because she thought the Son
Had got no business walking there.
It simply wasn’t done.
But Peter jumped out from the boat
Intent on having fun.

Alas he sank and cried for help
And shed a bitter tear.
The Carpenter said nothing but
‘You’re lacking faith, my dear’.


Basil Ransome-Davies (Scandal in Bohemia meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman, burned-out minor-royalty groupie or not. But that came later. It all started with a mystery letter. Holmes had been coking it up for several days and was living on the ceiling.

‘’Pon my soul, Holmes!’ I exclaimed on reading it, ‘this is batshit-crazy.’

‘Not with the right conditionality, Watson. Did you know that the Pope never visits a town where the newspapers are on strike? I forget where I got that from. My attorney, maybe. Whatever, I refer you to the bowl of Acapulco Gold on the ottoman.’

Once I’d fired up a doobie we sat watching the shadows move around the room, playing ‘White Rabbit’ on a loop and munching popcorn.

Finally Holmes pronounced decisively, ’Come, Watson. The game’s afoot. If I have learned one thing, it’s that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Max Gutmann (‘The Snow Man’ meets ‘Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening’)
Whose mind this is, I think I know.
It’s not a mind of winter, though.
It can’t regard these pine-trees here,
Their boughs all crusting up with snow,

And not feel miserable and queer
This longest evening of the year,
Not feel the sound of wind’s a cue
To go and down a tub of beer.

The sound of leaves that are too few
Imposes on the listener who
Stands snowbound in this place so bare
And, knowing he is nothing, too,

Beholds two nothings to compare:
The one that isn’t anywhere
And, too, the nothing that is there,
And, too, the nothing that is there.

Sylvia Fairley/Macbeth meets ‘The Raven’
Sleeping, waking, weak and weary; sorry sight this
      midnight dreary,
Hark! it was the owl that shreik’d, fatal bellman,
      bird of yore.
Will these hands be clean; I’m fearing every noise,
      and vainly peering
Into darkness, always hearing ‘Out damned spot’
      for evermore,
Yet I hear an urgent rapping, just behind the
      chamber door,
Hear a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!’

Perfumes of Arabia’ll never wash the smell of
      blood forever,
In this house of horror haunted, Banquo’s shadow
      on the floor,
Grim, ungainly — I’m entreating, ‘ghastly
      creature’, then repeating,
‘While my weary heart is beating, wake up
      Duncan, I implore!’
Hell is murky and what’s done will not be undone
      — nevermore,
Darkness there and nothing more.

There is a version of the ‘Hokey-Cokey’ rewritten as a Shakespearean sonnet by Jeff Brechlin. Your next challenge is to filter the song through the pen of another well-known writer. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 31 July.


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