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.