David Bouchier: Things Are Not What They Seem
It takes a lot to get English people really upset. But the organizers of a vegetable show in an English village managed it when they agreed to allow contestants to enter produce that they had not grown, but instead purchased at the local supermarket. This was considered an outrage and a violation of all the laws of fair play and honest competition. The whole point of such shows is to reward the skill and dedication of the grower who produces the fattest marrow or the longest carrot. There’s no glory at all in simply buying something.
However this fuss over vegetables ignores the fact that wherever there is competition there is always money, and cheating. If the top prize can be bought, somebody will try to buy it. I’m not talking about the Presidential elections, of course. If there is any devious, underhand, dishonest or illegitimate way to win, somebody will give it a try. Companies gain an advantage in the market by industrial and economic espionage, athletes resort to drugs, and musicians with no new ideas may “sample” or simply steal the work of others. In the worlds of art and literature, plagiarism and forgery are almost as common as originality and, even in the exalted intellectual world of universities, reports of faked research and stolen idea hit the headlines about once a week.
Notions like “fair play” and a “level playing field” have become quaintly old-fashioned, or perhaps they always were. It might be liberating to just give them up and allow a free-for-all in the perpetual battle for fame and fortune. The “problem” of drugs in sports, for example, could be instantly solved by simply allowing them. Players could take truckloads of drugs at their own risk, if they were so inclined. Then they really would all be on a level playing field and the competition would, in a curious way, be more honest.
Here’s another example of unfair competition. For years I have wanted to write a novel, but the novel writing business is all wrapped up by people who are much smarter and more creative than I am. How fair is that? Why should a novel be one hundred percent authentic and original, any more than a prize zucchini should be one hundred percent home grown? Jane Austen’s plots and Sherlock Holmes’s adventures have been recycled thousands of times by less talented writers. Every classic has an infinite number of shadowy imitations. Writing a novel is still a daunting task, but here’s my idea.
My protagonist is a wealthy Frenchman, living in the late nineteenth century, in poor health but blessed with remarkable powers of memory and observation. He looks back on his life and the people he has known in exquisite detail. This is how it starts, the first draft of the first chapter.
“For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say “I’m going to sleep” before I slept.”
It’s not the most exciting opening, but I know it has the potential to become a great novel in every sense. Interested publishers can put in their bids for this remarkable work by writing to me at this radio station. But be prepared to wait. It will take me a while to finish copying all seven volumes.
Copyright: David Bouchier