The Project Gutenberg EBook of Moby Dick; or The Whale Author: Herman Melville Release Date: December 25, 2008 [EBook #2701] Last Updated: January 9, 2013
Original: CHAPTER 1. Loomings. Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
Title: Tales of the Sandspike
I may answer to the name Belaseen, or not. There was a time, it isn’t important how long ago, when my stomach and my pockets were empty. City life did not appeal, so I escaped to work on a caravan, plying the waves of sand that surround us. I thought such travel would suit me well, and still does, to soothe the beast within. Some think the City excites, yet I eventually find a black cloud floating above my head emitting a mist of depression, damp and drizzly, darkening up my very soul. My fists begin to clench and my eyes narrow as my outlook turns to violent thoughts. Instead of putting pistol to head and triggering a ball of death to ravage my brain or that of another, my release is to stalk to the departure grounds, join a caravan, and let it take me o’er the cleansing sands. I am not the only one who feels thus.
Commentary: This is one of the greatest openings of all time. I had to compress the words down to First 13 length yet retain the self-knowledge that the MC has that makes Ishmael/Belaseen such a strong and intriguing character. There is a cadence to Melville’s prose that is somewhat old-fashioned that I also tried to emulate as well as echo some of the original language, but I found that difficult as I compressed the essence of Melville's superb opening.
O. Henry. “The Gift of the Magi.” The New York Sunday World. 10 Dec 1905. Project Gutenberg. Web. 10 Feb 2014.
The Gift of the Magi (Ending, a few sentences short of the last words)
Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”
The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.
Wedding Keepsakes (Voice imitation)
“Never mind, Rae, we called the nuptials off,” Leon said. “Since you opened the hall butler with that handsome mirror—I’ve already used the TreadClimber®—we’ll keep our gifts a few more days. They’re too precious to pass over. How about we open the Hartholts’ present; I guess, a rare vintage cognac[—]with cake?”
These were gluttons, you know, misers—fools—those who covet and hoard wealth. Their ways were the arts of the thieves beside the Crucifixion, imposing that selfish act from time immemorial on the honest. Being misers, their avarice indubitably self-served, exhibited their antipathy toward sincere well-wishers. I have humbly reported these lusty pleasure lovers’ trivial events at their luxury palace, lived in beyond their means. Let it be known by fools through a stern word these are among the wickedest.
Among my top favorite model stories. I used inversion mostly: inverted topic, dramatic complication and peripety, occasion, subject, motifs, setting, etc., and updated the voice to a more contemporary language. More so, I chose this selection because it contains in short order the four primary voices a narrative may exhibit: character, narrator, implied writer, and real writer voices. Those voice characteristics somewhat traditionally conventional to the pre-Modern literary eras I endeavored to imitate.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde Release Date: June 9, 2008 [EBook #174] Last updated on July 2 2011
The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn. From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion.
Title: The Rupture of Lydian Space
The lab buzzed with the frenzied crackle of electrons, and when the furnace belched heat through the rusted grate of its fiery maw there floated through the air the charred flakes of bark, along with the baked aroma of pinesap. From the center of the dais of polished obsidian on which he stood, twitching, as usual, with repressed glee, Dr. Anton Purdue could only squint against the white-hot and white-hiss blaze of the carbon arc, whose metal rods appeared ready to melt under the amperage they held; and hither and yon fervid tendrils of electrical lightning cut the tangled fabric of space-time that shimmered in the large brass portal, creating a type of crude tunnel, and causing him to regard those grimy sweat-streaked miners who, in work that is customarily deep, toil to unearth the sparkle and purity of gems.
Comments: While I enjoyed imitating the poetic aspect of Wilde’s opening to Dorian Gray, I found the syntax challenging (the entire paragraph is only two sentences), especially as I had to compress it to make the 13-line length. It was tempting to remove articles and rearrange the construction, but I wanted to keep that Victorian era feel suitable for the Steampunk genre.
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It's a little hard voting for two. Both of these entries were good, but I have to decide which element was best. It's not a matter of good or bad, it's more like better and best. So here is my ballot:
Strongest Title: The Rupture of Lydian Space. Strongest Voice: This was really difficult since they were both true to the original. It gets down to liking Wedding Keepsake's opposite stand from the original. Win: The Rupture of Lydian Space. I liked the action and the title and it's more of a story I'd like to read. (ahh, the subjective edge.) Place: Wedding Keepsake
No Favorite Entry since that is obvious.
Critiques Wedding Keepsake was written perhaps more smoothly. The imagery was a little more sophisticated in keeping with where the author went with the adaptation.
The Rupture of Lydian Space's description was more intense in keeping with the mad scientist image that I saw. Where Dr. Purdue stood, twitching, I didn't know if he twitched or if the dais did.
In all three submissions, the imitated voice came through quite well. Unfortunately none had the smoothness of prose that came with the original and I think that's where voice came at the expense of flow. I certainly can see why the originals were better since they came from old classics and we don't write that way anymore.
It's too bad there were only three entries, but I think they would all be at the top in a more robust field.
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Both contestants evoke strong implications. Voice-wise, I feel "Tales of the Sandspike" is strongest from evoking a mysterious aura of intrigue akin to A Thousand and One Nights, and the imitated work title's aesthetic. Frankly, Moby Dick or the Whale has all the hallmarks of a tall fish tale told by an old salt fishhouse liar, a folk tradition of fishing communities. "Tales of the Sandspike" evokes a similar raconteur sensibility.
Craft-wise, though, "The Rupture of Lydian Space" implies a pivotal dramatic event the other title doesn't.
Strongest voice imitation
Win: "Tales of the Sandspike" for most closely capturing the first-person voice, aesthetic, complication, and viewpoint of Ishmael from a fresh approach. The complication for the imitation and the original are exactingly parallel and most of all recommend this one as champion.
Place: "The Rupture of Lydian Space" expresses the degrees of awe and wonder and uncertainty of the original; however, I couldn't locate a complication in the imitation or one in the original's fragment, though I know the complication of the original.
Show: By default, c'est moi, "Wedding Keepsakes."
Due to unseemly selection of my own being de rigueur, by default of two choices, "Tales of the Sandspike" for its close voice imitation and parallel complication reinvention.
If any exercise has most strengthened my writing skills, imitation is it. Why not, after all, imitate the masters, instead of the mediocres?
I second Owasm's sentiment that all three are exceptional and exquisite imitations. I've read many in writing workshops. Quite a few fail to appreciate the purposes of the exercise and stray far afield. The ones that have met or exceeded the intent are all exquisitely delightful, as these are, their writers more skilled in the first place than average and further grown as writers for the exercise.
It appears we three are also the only ones who care to comment on this challenge. A game of three who ventured and gained, at least a little grease for the writing gears lest they grow rusty. In the spirit of the established order, I provide my vote last, and place my own lurid submission in the show position.
Strongest Title: I simply pretended here that I opened up a short story anthology and after getting over my disappointment at finding only two to select, chose the one that I immediately thought more interesting: "Tales of the Sandspike" Place: Wedding Keepsakes
Strongest Voice imitation:
Overall, both pieces did a fine job of holding to the voice of the original, so I had to go micro-level, and get overly picky.
I think "Tales of the Sandspike" captured the verbiage of the era better. But one sentence bothered me: "a black cloud floating above my head emitting a mist of depression, damp and drizzly, darkening up my very soul." I looked back at Melville's original to read "a damp, drizzly November in my soul." While Melville's drizzle fits with the atmosphere of the ocean theme, The imitation’s cloud mist didn't fit with its desert atmosphere. Also, where the imitation changed most nouns and adjectives everywhere else in the piece, it kept these two: drizzly and soul.
“Wedding Keepsakes”, by contrast stuck to the established theme of it's greedy selfish characters. Within "Keepsakes" I find some amusing contrasts like the use of the ® in TreadClimber® which breaks the era. This sentence threw me though: "How about we open the Hartholts’ present; I guess, a rare vintage cognac, with cake?" I reads like the present contained a cake and while this is dialogue, and people do speak in these broken ways, I wished that after cognac, instead of the comma there was dash or some ellipses (that might have indicated the omission of "and have some") While I like the contrast between the original and the imitation with “Keepsakes, It's harder to like the two greedy shallow snobs. Belaseen is more interesting. Finally, the narrator voice in both “The Magi” and “Keepsakes” is very strong. In “Keepsakes” it comes off sounding sanctimonious. And while this can be taken as humorous (I’m all for humor) I got more of a chuckle out of the ®. “Sandspike” flows better.
Win: Tales of the Sandspike Place: Wedding Keepsakes
Strongest title: 2 votes "Tales of the Sandspike" 1 vote "The Rupture of Lydian Space 1 additional place vote "Wedding Keepsakes"
Strongest voice imitation: Win 2 votes "Tales of the Sandspike" 1 vote "The Rupture of Lydian Space Place 2 votes "Wedding Keepsakes" 1 vote "The Rupture of Lydian Space" Show 1 vote "Wedding Keepsakes" 1 vote each other entry implied by default of not voting for the writer's own entry
Favorite: 1 vote "Tales of the Sandspike" 1 vote implied "Tales of the Sandspike"
Overall, out of three, "Tales of the Sandspike" wins, "The Rupture of Lydian Space" places, and "Wedding Keepsakes" shows, though each writer I expect won more reward from the exercise. I know I did and from insights into how other writers approach imitation.
I guess, the deciding judge was moi, by default, since my imitation didn't overtop the subjective sensibility expectations for fantastical motifs and likeable characters of the other judges/entrants. Intentionally. And thankfully, the results have validity: odd number of votes are never split, tied, ambivalent decisions.