In Competition No. 3178 you were invited to submit an extract from a Dickensian novel based around the name of someone in political life. Inspired titles, in a modestly sized but accomplished entry, included A Tale of Two Pritis (David Silverman and Joe Houlihan) and Paul A. Freeman’s Barnier Fudge. The winners below take £25 each, except Bill Greenwell who earns a bonus fiver.
Mr. Shapps, Sir. At your service, Mr. Shapps. Always a toothsome smile, a twinkle, a child in perpetuity. Mr. Shapps with his electric bicycle, his hair rising happily from his head. Mr. Shapps taking his turn on the platform, waving away the engine, his mouth ajar, happy in his work. Locomotion, he announces, is a necessary necessity. We must travel, Sir, from Q to Z, and in good time. A strategic travel corridor is what he craves, Sir. Mr. Shapps has enunciated as such. We must move cautiously, that is his watchword, as long as we move at speed. Oh Mr. Shapps! — with a single sparkle from his tooth, he must abolish old vehicles for new. Mr. Shapps! with his babyish face, all pucker, all smile. Always ready, Sir, with his eminent fulgurations and his scintillations, and his madder cheeks! See him rise in his private balloon, Sir! Upwards!
Bill Greenwell/Grant Shapps
No visit to that estimable City notary Mr Naunton Saunterquake was complete — one might almost say possible — without an encounter with that gentleman’s oldest clerk, Jeremy Corbyn. This goatish, sartorially dishevelled personage performed, in Saunterquake’s establishment, the function of perpetually creaking floorboard, injecting persistently into every conversation an irritating unease. In deracinated tones, Jeremy Corbyn complained, to those who would listen and those who wrongly imagined they would not, of various injustices visited upon him by his employer, the legal system, the political system lending it legitimacy and Creation itself. Disgruntled monologues aside, Jeremy Corbyn busied himself at no other office task and many of those transacting business with Mr Saunterquake wondered at his continued employment of the man. The esteemed notary kept his counsel; while Jeremy Corbyn exhaustedly repeated his antique Chartist perorations, no customer would question the professional advice Saunterquake had dispensed, still less the fees he charged.
Adrian Fry/Jeremy Corbyn
In Amiens, the cradle of that tireless fabulist M. Verne, the English traveller might not be startled to encounter natives dubbed by their countrymen ‘fou-fou’, that is, blessedly confounded in their wits. Such was Emile-Théophilus Micron, whose mind, like planetary spin, threw off into the blue schemes of laughable foolishness, to hang there unachievably, a delight to all. No like affection was granted his compeer Emmanuel Macron, of whose worldliness it was said that he could glance out of a window and price the exact financial worth of anyone who passed. One a species of otherworldly artist, the other a franc-squeezing actuary enamoured of his mother, they were brought into collision by the turbulent waves of political life, which is conducted in France through high-republican strategies of falsehood, insult and bribery. Passion ignited both men’s supporters, yet it was never a fair race.
Basil Ransome-Davies/Emmanuel Macron
Donald Trump, sir. A man of realities. A man who demands a recount. Bigly. A man who proceeds upon the principle that five million votes equals fraud, and who is not to be talked into fake news media conspiracies. Donald Trump, sir — peremptorily Trump — D. ‘Teflon Don’ Trump. With a big toupee and a pair of small hands, and the American people always in his pocket, sir, ready to ignore any outbreak of Covid, and tell you exactly what it comes to. Take a look at the numbers. It is a question of tests, tests, tests. And what happens is, you get better. You might get some other fake belief into the head of Joe Biden, or Kamala Harris, or Vladimir Putin, or Hillary Clinton (all supposititious, nonexistent persons), but into the head of Donald Trump — no, sir! In such terms Mr Trump always mentally introduced himself, especially on Twitter.
Janine Beacham/Donald Trump
With obvious pride our bustling host introduced me to his guest of honour, Miss Anneliese Dodds, who greeted me with a charming but deeply miserable smile. Miss Dodds was a long and somewhat bony person with the most soulful eyes you ever saw; her demeanour proclaimed serious commitment to a purely vegetable diet, and I was immediately impressed by her dignified aspect of perpetual melancholy. I knew, of course, her reputation as a poetess whose works passionately declared that human lives were precious, that wars killed people, and that our planet was terribly important. These were views whose contraries I never yet heard argued, yet her exposition of them apparently came as a blinding revelation to her multitudinous admirers. She gave me her hand, with the air of one conferring a gift infinitely precious, and I suffered a momentary trepidation that she might there and then start reciting a poem.
George Simmers/Anneliese Dodds
Mr Hancock’s features always carrying something of November about them, even in high summer, the Scout found it hard to divine his master’s mood in clear daylight. Now that Mr Hancock had elected to swathe his face in a mask, out of which might have been made mourning ribands for an extensive family, his face was yet harder to interpret, so the Scout felt it prudent to leave the gentleman his tumbler of usquebaugh, hot, with lemon and cloves, in silence.‘Scout? What do they say about me?’
‘The populace, Scout.’
‘If you means by that the gen’ral commerce of the streets, guvnor, what they knows ain’t nuffink. They says as ’ow you is wholly in the Contingnent, which you ain’t and there’s the end of it.’
‘Thank you, Scout. That will be all. Oh — one last thing.’
‘You have had the smallpox, haven’t you?’
Frank Upton/Matthew Hancock
No. 3181: nay sayers
This year’s Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain was turned down by 32 publishers. You are invited to submit a publisher’s rejection letter of a well-known literary classic. Please email entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 6 January.
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