Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Happily Ever After- For Real!

Nothing spoils an otherwise good story like a bad ending. And there are often times when, though we may grudgingly admit that a particular ending was fitting, we can't help but wish that things had turned out differently- that the romantic pairings had been different, a villain hadn't gotten off so lightly, or some particular character had just made slightly more sensible decisions. Well, today some of these injustices will (hopefully) be rectified, as we investigate how select works of literature perhaps should have ended.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Angel Clare: Tess, will you marry me?

Tess: Yes! But before we get carried away, you should probably know that, a few years ago, I was assaulted by my scumbag of a cousin, and subsequently gave birth to a baby who later died. Is this going to be an issue?

Angel Clare: Ew, get away from me, whore!

Tess: Okay, then. Have fun in Brazil, asshat.

Angel goes off to Brazil and gets deathly ill. Meanwhile, Tess continues working at Talbothay's dairy where, at her suggestion, several ingenious innovations are implemented, which increase both quality and production. Tess is promoted to a management position, where she begins working closely with Mr. Talbothay's son, who respects her business acumen and is accepting of her past. The two of them marry and, following the death of Mr. Talbothay, take over the farm, which, under their management, becomes the largest dairy producer in the county. A penitent Angel returns from Brazil, only to discover that Tess has moved on. Unable to make it on his own as a farmer, he ends up returning to Talbothay's and working for Tess and her new husband. Meanwhile, Alec d'Urberville loses all his money, contracts syphilis, and dies a miserable, painful, lonely death in the workhouse.

Moby Dick

Ishmael: Queequeg, I've been thinking. You and I met at an inn owned by a man named Peter Coffin, which had, as part of its decor, a painting of a ship being destroyed by an angry whale. We then listened to a sermon about Jonah in a church heavily dedicated to people who died at sea. We have since signed on to a ship captained by a man named after a Biblical king who provoked the wrath of God. Furthermore, we have since been warned against this same ship by a creepy doomsayer with the same name as a Biblical prophet of doom. Call me crazy, but I think all of this is what's known as "foreshadowing," and it does not bode well for us.

Queequeg: Me think-ee you right! 'Spos-ee we choose-ee 'nother ship-ee? 

Ishmael: Excellent idea, my heathen friend!

Ishmael and Queequeg proceed to sign on to one of the other whaling ships. They have a successful and otherwise uneventful whaling trip, in the course of which Ishamel learns, once and for all, that whales are not fish. They return to Nantucket after a profitable voyage, and enjoy many years of a long and beautiful friendship.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo: So, here's what I'm thinking- we'll meet at the church tomorrow, have Friar Lawrence marry us, and then get the hell out of Dodge Verona. That work?

Juliet: Sounds like a plan! I'll pack tonight.

The two lovers are married in secret. Then, rather than hang around Verona fighting duels, killing each other's cousins, getting exiled, and concocting elaborate schemes involving faking their own deaths, they immediately skip town, leave the country, and open a charming inn in the south of France, where they live happily ever after, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.


Prince:  Excuse me, Miss, but I don't believe we've been introduced?

Cinderella: *curtsies* Good evening, Your Highness. My name is Ella (thinks to herself "Boy, it sure is good that I'm not a total idiot and that my parents managed to instill basic etiquette in me before their untimely deaths, otherwise I might not have known that literally the first thing you do when you meet someone new is tell them your name. That could have led to all kinds of unnecessary complications!")

Prince: It is a pleasure to meet you, Ella. Would you care to dance?

Cinderella: Of course, but would you mind terribly if I ditched these shoes first? I know they're gorgeous and one-of-a-kind and all, but frankly, they're wicked uncomfortable.

Prince: Not at all!

The Prince and Cinderella proceed to dance, converse, and have an otherwise delightful evening, until...

Cinderella: Oh my goodness, it's 11:30! I'm so sorry, I really must go, I have to be home by midnight!

Prince: That's a shame. But, if it's all right, I'd really love to see you again.

Cindrella: Oh, I'd love that, but the thing is...well, I live with my stepmother and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't allow it at all. I'm not even supposed to be here tonight, actually.

Prince: Hmmm...

Cinderella leaves and is home by curfew. Meanwhile, the Prince arranges for the stepmother and stepsisters to win the grand prize from that evening's royal raffle- an all-expenses paid trip to the Caribbean! With the evil step-family an ocean away, he and Cinderella are free to date and get to know each other like normal people, thereby laying the groundwork for the happy, long-lasting marriage that ensues, which really is a far more sensible approach to things than rushing into marriage with a total stranger you've met once, for a few hours, and later could only identify because of shoe size.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dr. Seusspeare, Part II

Happy (slightly belated) New Year, everybody! For the first post of 2015, I am happy to present you with the continuation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, as told by Dr. Seuss (the first part of which, should you need a refresher, can be found here). So, without further ado, allow me to present:

William Shakespeare's
The Tragedy of Macbeth
as told by Dr. Seuss
Part the Second

Scene 1: Inverness- Macbeth’s Castle. Enter Lady Macbeth, alone, with a letter.

Lady Macbeth: My husband writes and tells to me
That he encountered Witch One, Witch Two, and Witch Three.
And before he could speak, they told him some things
Among them that he would be Cawdor and king.
Then lickity-split, before he knew what to do
He was told that the first thing they said had come true!
Well! That is some news! That is news that is grand!
There is nothing more fun than ruling the land!
And yet, my husband’s much to kind
He won’t like the plan I have in mind.

[Enter Macbeth]

Macbeth: Hey wife! Say wife! Duncan will stay here tonight!

Lady Macbeth: Yes, but let there be no doubt,
He can come in, but can’t go out!
When he arrives, be nice as can be,
Then tonight we will kill him, you and me.

Macbeth: Those are some strange words to hear,
Let’s talk later of this, dear.

Lady Macbeth: It will be easy, you will see!
Just leave all of it to me!

Scene 2: Inverness- approaching Macbeth’s castle. Enter King Duncan, Malcolm, Donalbain, Banquo, Lennox, Macduff, Ross, Angus, and Attendants.

Duncan: Say, this place is swell! This sure is one swell place to dwell!

[Enter Lady Macbeth]

Lady Macbeth: Yea, King Duncan, verily
I bid you welcome merrily!
We’re so glad you are our guest,
And that with us you’ve come to rest!

Duncan: Good Lady, is your husband here?
He rode too fast for us, I fear.

Lady Macbeth: About the Thane no longer wonder,
He’s waiting in the castle yonder.

Duncan:  Then by all means, let us go in
And thank the man who helped us win!

Scene 3: Inside Macbeth’s castle. Enter Macbeth.

Macbeth: No, I should not kill him
I should not, indeed.
For so many reasons,
It would be a bad deed!
Duncan’s my king,
He’s also my cousin,
And that is just two reasons
Out of a dozen!
He’s also my guest, and I hope you’ll agree
My guests should be honored,
Not murdered by me.
Then perhaps I should add, Duncan’s also quite nice
A man unacquainted with evil and vice.
No, I will not do it,
I won’t, that is clear-
            Enter Lady Macbeth
How now? What news is there, my dear?

Lady Macbeth: What are you doing out here, you fool?
Don’t you know that Duncan’s been asking for you?

Macbeth: I’ve sat and given it much thought,
I’m calling off our murder plot.

Lady Macbeth: How can this be? What do you mean?
I insist
on being queen!
And if we’re to get ahead,
That man in there must end up dead!
We can kill him here or kill him there,
But we must murder him somewhere!

Macbeth: Peace, I say! I’ve made up my mind!
I won’t do something so unkind!
It doesn’t matter what you say,
I won’t do it in any way!
I would not kill him in a boat,
I would not drown him in our moat.
I would not kill him in his bed,
I would not stab him in the head!
I would not kill him here or there,
I would not kill him anywhere.
I would not, could not kill the king,
I could not do so foul a thing.
I’ll do only what befits a man,
Which does not mean killing the king of the land.

Lady Macbeth: Look at you, so prim and prissy!
You’re not a man, you’re just a sissy!
A real man would do what he said he would,
And murder Duncan well and good!

Macbeth: But suppose that we should fail?

Lady Macbeth: That will only happen if you bail!
Take your courage, screw it tight,
And we surely cannot fail tonight!
Later, when Duncan's fast asleep,
Into his room you'll softly creep.
As he's lying on his bed,
Take out your sword and kill him dead!
Then, before you leave the room,
Smear his blood upon his grooms.
No one will suspect a thing,
And just like that, you will be king! 

Macbeth: Goodness, wife, but you are tough!
But your plan makes sense enough.
And so your advice I'll heed-
Later this night, I'll do the deed.


Will Macbeth go through with his dastardly plot? Find out next time on Dr. Seusspeare's Macbeth!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Words With Criminals, Part I

*Insert obligatory disclaimer about how I know it's been ages and I have no excuse and I am a disgrace to the world of blogging here*

Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let's get right down to business. Allow me, dear readers, to present you with the following flight of literary fancy, inspired by this prompt from the users of r/writingprompts, over at Reddit: In a world where linguistic delinquency is on the rise, a Grammar Nazi is called to the scene of one of the most heinous crimes of his/her career.

            Chief Grammar Inspector Johann “Jack” Schmitt ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and climbed the stairs of the Forman University Library, his brown overcoat flapping in the cool night breeze. He pulled open the heavy oaken door and strode into the library. The normally quiet entryway was abuzz with activity- crime scene analysts pulling out evidence bags and setting up blacklights, tech guys tapping away on laptops, a couple of officers from the Syntax Squad busily consulting their copies of “Essentials of English Grammar” and “Elements of Style.”
The hum of voices abated a bit when Schmitt walked into the room. Six foot five, burly and mustachioed, Schmitt had a commanding presence, in addition to which he was something of a legend in the Grammar Police. A member of the force for nearly forty years, Schmitt had first come to prominence in ’75, after successfully mediating a particularly tense subject-verb standoff. His subsequent rise through the ranks had been nothing short of meteoric. It was Schmitt who held the record for corralling the most run-on sentences; it was Schmitt who, as head of the Punctuation Patrol, had led the highly effective crackdown on exclamation point abuse; it was Schmitt who, after months of undercover work, had at last brought down the infamous Txtspk Gang; and it was Schmitt who had finally tracked down and brought to justice “The Splitter,” a notorious and elusive serial criminal who had spent thirteen months roaming the Eastern Seaboard, leaving a trail of bleeding infinitives in his wake. By now, even the most fresh-faced rookie on the force knew- if Schmitt was on the case, something big was going on. Schmitt wasn’t called in for some routine apostrophe slip or piddling little comma splice. Schmitt was serious.
Ignoring the looks and whispers that followed him, Schmitt strode briskly through the hall to the circulation desk, where Detective Spreckels was waiting for him. Spreckels was head of the Tense Team, and the one who had called him in. “Evening, Herman,” Schmitt said by way of greeting.
“Evening, Jack. Or ‘Morning,’ I suppose I should say. Sorry to get you out of bed.”
Schmitt waved his hand dismissively. “Never mind that. What are we dealing with here?”
“This way,” said Spreckels, gesturing towards a large wooden door. “The scene is up on the fourth level of stacks. The elevator’s bust, so we’ll have to walk it. I’ll fill you in on the way up.”
The two men stepped through the door in the dusty quiet of the library stacks. Narrow shelves towered over them, and a musty odor filled the air. A faded map of the college campus hung on the wall opposite, while to the right, a rickety looking staircase led the way upwards. Spreckels leading, the two men began the ascent.
“Call came in about thirty minutes ago,” Spreckels began. “Undergrad- a senior- stayed late at the library to get some extra work done on his thesis. About one o’clock, he heard a noise coming from the other side of the stacks- said it was a kind of tearing and then a couple of thuds. Went to check it out, got one look at the scene, and ran to call us.”
“Who was first on the scene?” Schmitt asked. The detectives passed the second level of stacks and continued up.
“Hoffmann and Fischer. They were about a block away when the call came in, and called for backup pretty quickly when they saw the scene. I showed up with the guys from Tense about ten minutes later, took a look, and said we should call you.”
They had reached the landing that led to the fourth level. Spreckels paused, his hand on the knob of the door that led into the stacks. “Listen Jack,” he said, “there’s really no way to prepare you for this. I know you’ve seen a lot over the years, but this…this is worse than anything any of us has ever seen. Becker- you know what a tough nut he his- he got one look and just about lost his lunch. And the poor kid who found it, well, he’s at the hospital right now, in complete shock. This thing is brutal, completely beyond anything we’ve seen before. That’s why I knew we needed you on this right from the start.”
Schmitt nodded, his face grim. “I understand. Just let me see it.”
Spreckels took a deep breath and led the way through the door. “That way,” he said, pointing to the left. “Just past the last row of shelves. Forgive me if I don’t come with you. I…I don’t think I can stand to see it again just now.”
Schmitt nodded and walked towards the rear of the stack, where he let out an audible gasp. Spreckels was right- the scene before him was worse than anything he could have imagined. The surrounding shelves had been emptied, the books pulled off and tossed carelessly into a heap on the floor. Atop the pile of bent covers and torn pages sat a copy of the OED, a Number 2 pencil shoved through the front, like a stake through a vampire’s heart. Even worse, however, was the graffiti. It covered the walls, every inch of them, from ceiling to floor, the red paint splashed about in a crude mockery of an English teacher’s corrective pen. As he read it, Schmitt felt the bile rise in his throat:
Last nite! I dr3amd, I wEnt: 2 manderly agn
It’s a? tRUth Universaly aknolejed that a single; man –IN possechun. of a lrg 4-ton “must” b n (wont) of a w’ife,!?!
Hapee: famleez, R al a-lick every. unhapee Famlee iz Unhapee n it’s own, way’
2 b or? not…2 b! tht Is The Qwe’stc{h}Un???,?,?,?
aFteR All. 2m0r0w: iz “an”othr!!!!!!!1!! Day:
s!INg—o Mu’se Of Teh (anger), of; akileez?!
       On and on it went, row after row of the most disgusting perversions Schmitt had ever seen. Seemingly no one had been spared- Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, Milton, Dante…author after author had had their cherished sentences ruthlessly and sadistically gutted on the library wall. “My God,” Schmitt whispered, and put out a hand to steady himself against the door frame. He was certainly no stranger to grammatical carnage. His decades on the force had left him well-acquainted with the atrocities man was capable of inflicting on the English language. But this…never, in all his forty years of hunting down grammar criminals, had Schmitt ever seen such a calculated, cold-blooded attack on everything that he held sacred.
                This was no time to show weakness, however. He’d been called in for his experience, his expertise. The other men were shook up enough as it was, without seeing him fall to pieces as well. He had to get a hold of himself. Closing his eyes, Schmitt took three slow, deep breaths to steady himself, then straightened up, turned, and strode briskly back to where Spreckels was waiting.
                “Was there anything there?” he asked, his voice low and quivering with barely suppressed emotion. “Anything at all that could tell us who was behind that…that…that bloody butchery back there?”
                Spreckel shook his head. “Nothing. It’s the damndest thing. No fingerprints. No fibers. Nothing. The only thing we found was this.” He pulled a sealed evidence bag out of his pocket and handed it to Schmitt. “Forensics wanted to send it right out to the lab, but I wanted you to have a look at it first.”
                Schmitt took the baggie and examined it. It contained a single sheet of lined notebook paper, covered with the same red ink smeared on the library walls. A mounting sense of horror overtook Schmitt again as he read the scrawling handwriting:
                   2 teh Grahmer po’Leece

                Gr33t1ngz?. Dis iz r! furst comyoonnikashun;  It will not! b teh (last),. 4  yeers wee hav: laB0red under teh Oppreshun Of You’re grammatehKu’ll rulez? and “suferd” under! the, Standurdized . spe-lling that, haz kwashed; teh awtH-‘entikley Cree8iv v1zshUn off teh! Tr00 R-tists.,!? No “Mor” ( Tihs) mArrks teh/ Furst of r, STRYKE’S? aganst . ur langwage!!! Tee-Ranny…Mor-- will folloh UnTil,l Awl Of. You’re (reepressiv )! konstraint’s “hav” ben dizm-anteld ?and, teh NEW; WORD ORDER haz, ben!!1!? instit00ted?!.?!! do not dowt? taht, w33 will b SuksSSsful You hav seen wat WE! R kapabel of. Begin, teh… kowNt. 4: ur daze?( as) Gramer des’pots “r” numb3r3dd.?!1?:;!?

Teh Illiterati

Under the signature there was a carefully drawn sketch of a pyramid, a dictionary impaled upon its point.

Schmitt looked up from the note, his face hard and grim. “Get this to the lab. Now.” He ordered, thrusting the baggie back to Spreckels. “And get forensics back up here. I want them to go over this place again with everything they have, I don’t care if it takes them all night.” He brushed past the other detective and began quickly descending the stairs.     
                “Sure, Jack, of course, but where are you going?”
                “Over to District. I’ve got to get through to Washington as soon as possible- we’re going to need all the help we can get on this.” Schmitt paused and looked back at his companion. “You were right, Herman. This is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. And if we don’t stop this now, well, this is going to be just the beginning.” 

To be continued...6rtfcgj

Monday, January 20, 2014

If These Books Could Talk...

There's so much we can learn from literary characters. The inhabitants of our favorite books can, through their examples and stories, teach us about courage, selflessness, friendship, heroism, love, passion, justice, freedom, hardship, determination, and good and evil. But what if we could learn from them more directly? What advice might they impart to us in their self-help books and how-to manuals? What dark secrets might be spilled in their tell-all memoirs? Let's look at a sampling of what we might be offered, could literary characters put their own pens to paper:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I'm Back!

I know, I know. I said my New Year's resolution was to update my blog every week. Apparently, I lied. Mea culpa, mea culpa, I am the worst blogger ever. But I'm back now, with a brand new post, and (if all goes well) I should be coming back every Sunday. So, let's kick off what will hopefully be a new season of productivity with...

(if Edgar Allen Poe had been an eight-months pregnant mother of two)

Based on actual events

Once upon a day so dreary, my pregnant self was sore and weary
So my husband took on kids and chores.
But upstairs as I lay napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of a child gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some toddler," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber-
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was nearly to September
I'd been pregnant for forever, since the distant days of yore.
Eagerly I wished my due date, vainly sought to instigate-
From books and websites of midwifery lore-
My labor, but results were poor-
I could not dilate any more.

And the tiny feet that I heard patting just outside upon the matting
Thrilled me- filled me with a terror mothers all have known before.
So that now to still the beating of my heart, I lay repeating
"'Tis some toddler entreating entrance at my chamber door-
But with no answer soon they will forsake my chamber door.
That it is, and nothing more."

Presently, my soul grew stronger, hesitating then no longer,
"Child," I said, "I love you, but your patience I implore.
For the fact is I was napping when so gently you came rapping.
Now persistently you're tapping, tapping at my chamber door-
Ask your father dear to help you," then I listened at the door.
Silence there, and nothing more.

Deep into that silence hearing, long I lay there, nervous, fearing,
Doubting that the child had returned unto the lower floor.
But the silence was unbroken and the quiet gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was when I whispered "Good, no more!"
This I whispered and an echo murmured back "no more!"
Then I again lay down to snore.

Back into my slumber turning, my aching back so sorely burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely said I, "surely, that cannot be a child,
Not a toddler running wild- but perhaps I should explore.
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore.
'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the door and there sitting on the floor
I saw my daughter just where she had been before.
Not the least obeisance made she, not a minute stopped or stayed she;
But with mien of lord or lady stepped right though my chamber door,
Then perched upon my bed, her feet swinging o'er the floor
She reached a sippy cup out before.

Then this stubborn child beguiling my weary fancy into smiling
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance she wore,
"Though I sent you to your father, me you seem to want to bother,
Silly child, wandering upward from the lower floor-
Tell me why you've come to get me up from the lower floor."
Quoth the toddler, "I want more!"

Much I marveled that my daughter could not ask this of her father.
Her petition was so simple- could not daddy get her more?
For we cannot help agreeing that any living human being
Blessed with two working hands could open the refrigerator door
And into the sippy cup some chocolate milk could pour
And give the little girl some more.

But the child sitting lonely on the king-sized bed spoke only
That one phrase and her eyes, they did implore.
Nothing further then she uttered and so I sighed and muttered,
"All right, dearest, let's go to the lower floors.
Come with me down the stairs as you have often done before,
And I your weary mother shall go and get you more."

Down the stairs we came and I called my husband's name,
Inquiring the reason why he could not get her more.
"Only mommy's chocolate milk would do," he sighed, "though quite ardently I tried-
Tried to keep her from your chamber door.
But now perhaps she'll leave your door,
Since you now have got her more."

The thought of napping now beguiling my exhausted self to smiling,
Straight I wheeled and darted up to the second floor.
Then upon the soft bed sinking, I gratefully fell to thinking
Of the deep and blissful rest that so surely lay before.
Sure that now there would be quiet outside my chamber door,
And no toddlers wanting more.

I set myself to sleeping, but a moment later felt like weeping
From the depths of tired, achy, pregnant core.
For as I lay reclining, noise I began divining,
Once again a gentle padding coming from the lower floor-
Once again a toddler's footsteps just outside my chamber door.
"No," I thought, "Oh please, no more."

And then there was a rapping, once again a little tapping,
And a child's voice came drifting through the closed-up bedroom door.
"Mommy," it cried, "You listening? My favorite car is missing!
I was playing in the living room, now I can't find it anymore!
Come help me find my car, so I can play with it some more,"
Quoth the child at my door.

"Child," groaned I, "ask your father, it is him that you should bother
To help you find your missing car."
But my son was quite undaunted, it was mommy that he wanted,
So as he stood upon the landing he did once again implore,
"Daddy looked and couldn't find it, I need you to look some more,"
Quoth the child at my door.

I with a sigh arose, putting off once more my doze
And stepping 'cross the bedroom, I then opened up the door.
My soul with exhaustion laden, I went down to give my aid in 
What would no doubt be a long and very frustrating chore.
So I went and again descended unto the lower floor,
With the child at my door.

Two hours after starting, as couch cushions I was parting,
And my back and knees were aching as they never had before-
There, hidden in the pillows, stuck to some old marshmallows,
What should I see there lying, but the sought-after matchbox car.
But my son just looked up shrugging from his place upon the floor-
"Oh, I don't want that anymore."

As I stood there disbelieving, there came a sudden rush of feeling,
Flooding down upon me as it seldom had before.
And as my soul rebelled, "That's enough!" I loudly yelled.
"I'm going up to nap, so bother me no more!"
Then I remembered something as I went to the second floor-
And with my soundproof headphones, there were no noises anymore.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Brought to you by...

In the old days, we had patrons of the arts- wealthy individuals who sponsored artists and writers. These days? Well, these days we have corporate sponsorship. But suppose we'd had then what we have now? The shelves of your local library might look very different today had the authors of classic literature worked a little product placement into their books. For example:

Long Day's Journey into Ny-Quil by Eugene O'Neill: a family worried about their son's health is relieved to discover that what they feared was tuberculosis is instead just a bad cold. Fortunately, a nearby drug store stocks Ny-Quil, (the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, best-sleep-you-ever-got-with-a-cold medicine!), enabling the sick son to sleep peacefully through the night and wake up feeling refreshed.

A Room With A ViewMaster by E.M. Forster: Although originally disappointed that her hotel room overlooking the Arno has been given away, young traveler Lucy Honeychurch is cheered when charming young George Emerson gifts her with a ViewMaster, enabling her to view dozens of high-quality images and reels in brilliant color- no windows necessary!

A Tale of Two Citibanks by Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Interest rates were down, but housing prices were at an all time high. Thankfully, with the help of competitive rates from Citibank (with branches conveniently located in both London and Paris!), newly minted marquis Charles Darnay was able to obtain an affordable mortgage on a house in London, enabling him to flee from unjust persecution at the hands of French revolutionaries.

The Secret Olive Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: When orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to live with her widowed uncle and crippled cousin at Misselthwaite Manor, she at first hates everything about her new life. However, things change when she stumbles upon a boarded-up Italian restaurant on the manor grounds. Shut up by her uncle after the death of his wife (a woman with Tuscan heritage and a love for never-ending pasta bowl specials), the restaurant has fallen into disrepair, but Mary vows to restore it to it's bustling heyday. But will endless soup, salad, and breadsticks for just $5.95 be enough to bring joy back to the cheerless residents of Misselthwaite?

The IcyHot Man Cometh by Eugene O'Neill: Weary and sore from being beaten down by life, a group of alcoholics, prostitutes, and pimps eagerly await the arrival of the IcyHot salesman, whose arrival heralds rapid relief from aches and pains in a fast-acting, dual action formula- icy to dull the pain and hot to relax it away! With their aching muscles finally soothed, will the depressed patrons of the saloon at last be able to mend their broken lives?

The Honda Odyssey by Homer: After ten years of fighting the Trojans, war-weary Odysseus attempts to return home to his wife and son, only to attract the wrath of Poseidon. But the wrath of the sea god is no match for the Ithacan king's all-terrain vehicle with surround sound stereo system, stowable back seat (creating extra storage for handy bags of winds!), and 6-speed automatic transmission.

A Roomba of One's Own by Virginia Woolf: In her landmark essay on women and writing, Virginia Woolf posits that "a woman must have money, a room of her own, and an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner if she is to write fiction. Seriously, I have so much more time to write now that I don't have to worry about constantly cleaning the carpet. Also, the last video I made of my cats riding this thing got a record number of hits on YouTube."

Pilgrim's Progressive Auto Insurance by Paul Bunyan: The journey of young Christian and the other pilgrims to the Celestial City is made much easier by comprehensive insurance coverage, offered at competitive rates, and with numerous discounts, including ones for safe driving, homeownership, and recognition of one's own sin.

Many thanks to the fellow members of my Facebook book group, who contributed several suggestions to this list.