07 October 2016

Classics Condensed

by O'Neil De Noux

When my young daughter read Hemingway's THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, she had to write a book report and said the teacher wanted a short synopsis at the beginning of the report. I suggested my daughter put - Old fisherman. Big Fish. Sharks. The teacher wasn't amused.

Last month I saw a small article online © John Atkinson who called it - Classic books in a couple sentences:
WAR AND PEACE - Everyone is sad. It snows.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH - Farming sucks. Road trip! Road trip sucks.
THE SUN ALSO RISES - Lost Generation gets drunk. Still lost.
ULYSSES - Dublin. Something. Something. Something. Run-on sentence.

This was brilliant and got me going, so much it interefered with my writing as condensations of classic books came into my mind, one after the other. They wouldn't leave me alone so I decided to share them:

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR - It's bad. Man tries. It's worse.
LORD OF THE FLIES - Good boys. Bad boys. Uh-oh, Adults.
THE GREAT GATSBY - Obsession. She's a siren. Don't go swimming.
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE - Phony. More phonies. Fuck it.

GONE WITH THE WIND - She's pretty, slutty, selfish. Frankly, I don't give a damn.
LONESOME DOVE - Cowboys. Women. Sure gonna miss that whore.
THE MALTESE FALCON - Pretty woman. Sharp Private Eye. Everyone sad.
DUNE - What? No water? Muad Dib.
LORD OF THE RINGS - It takes forever.
ANNA KARENINA - Love, sex and a train.
DR. ZHIVAGO - Two women and a good-hearted man with a bad heart.
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW - Headless horseman. Pretty cool.
A FAREWELL TO ARMS - Boy gets girl. Walks home alone in the rain.
MARY REILLY - Jekyll. Hyde. A maid cuddles.
THE CALL OF THE WILD - A man, a dog and howling wolves.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Racists. No mockingbird in the entire damn book.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS - Cylinders and Martians and germs. Thank God.
THE BIBLE - Rough opening. The Jesus part is the best.
THE SCARLET LETTER - Sex, lies and the puritan alphabet.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA - He really wasn't a ghost.
ROMEO AND JULIET - Boy. Girl. Poison and a knife.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE - A wimp. Slick vamp. Slicker wife.
LAURA - She's dead. She isn't dead. She did it. She didn't do it.

ANIMAL FARM - Humans are animals and animals are human. What?
LOLITA - She's sexy. She's twelve. It's just human nature. What the hell?
THE METAMORPHISIS - I'm a cockroach. Disgusting. I die.
AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS - Don't go. They go anyway. Arrgggh!
REBECCA - Whirlwind romance. Super-bitch pyromaniac housekeeper.
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY - Miners die. People Struggle. Town contaminated. Good times!
THE BIG SLEEP - Blackmail. Pornography. People die. Detective depressed.

Then the short stories started in on me:

"The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft - Awaken giant tentacles. Regret immediately.
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson - Don't play. Just get the hell out of town.
"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - It is a WILD goose chase.
"Shambleau" by C. L. Moore - Chase her. Cuddle with her. Kill her.

If you can think of some, put them in the comments or do a blog of your own. I warn you. Once you start, it's hard to stop.

O'Neil De Noux


  1. Thank you, O'Neil, for saving me tons of time. I feel I've read those books in full and enjoyed them. And in a hell of a lot less time than going cover to cover would have been :) . And pretty funny too!

  2. This could revolutionize book blurbs!

  3. These were fun. And I have one, about our own Art Taylor's book:

    On the Road with Del & Louise. Girl meets bad boy. Boy tries to reform. Road trip!

  4. Ha, Barb!
    (That would've saved me a lot of work too...) :-)

  5. Well, that could be addictive.

    THE HOT ROCK. Thieves steal emerald. Thieves chase emerald. Thieves chase emerald. Thieves chase emerald. Thieves chase emerald. Thieves chase emerald.

    THE DOORBELL RANG. She annoys FBI. FBI annoys her. Wolfe solves murder; blackmails FBI; doesn't answer doorbell.

    THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. Rich guy dies. Character cheats, or author.

  6. Thanks for the laugh on a Friday morning. As an English major in college, I wish I had these when I had to do my oral exams!

  7. How about movies?

    JAWS -- Big shark. Big problem. Small boat.

    REAR WINDOW -- Professor Stewart in the bedroom with a telescope.

    NORTH BY NORTHWEST -- Planes, trains, and Mt. Rushmore.

    IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE -- The bankers vs. the angels.

    COWBOYS AND ALIENS -- James Bond and Indiana Jones vs. E.T.

    THE SEARCHERS -- Who'd run from John Wayne? Natalie would.

    CASABLACA -- Sam plays, Rick broods, Ilsa catches a plane.

    PSYCHO -- Norman's not normal. Mommy's a mummy.

  8. JANE EYRE - Rude egomaniac, locks up 1st wife in attic, I marry him anyway.
    CANNERY ROW - Bunch of drunks, a brothel, a marine biologist and some fancy poetry.
    JUDE THE OBSCURE - Most depressing book ever written.
    TRISTAM SHANDY - Longest dirty joke ever told.
    THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD - Dr. Sheppard's nothing but a weak Amy Dunne.

  9. Oh, do love this post! Favourite: Laura. Well done, O'Neil.
    And once again, you've shown brilliantly why I adore crime more than classic literature.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Cliff Notes ala O'Neil De Noux
    Put in libraries now. Save the trees. Less paper.

  12. Thanks for my laugh for the day.

  13. I love these, well most of them anyway. Janice is so right that book blurbs should be written like this. I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned six-word stories. They're so fun! Here are four:

    Am I boring you? Well, anyway --

    Found love online, but email bounced.

    Flashshot too long? Try this instead.

    I wrote the first & last one; the last refers to the late lamented Flashshot which had word limits of 110 or 100 words at different times. The second one is by my friend Philip in Greece.

    7:29 p.m.

    O.K., after I posted these three I read an anonymous review on Yelp of an airport cab driver & realized the first six words made a great story, or the beginnings of one:

    Awful awful man. Fucking hilarious though.

  14. Blood on rose? Who could tell?


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