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* "Instant Romance" by Dafney Dewitt (con job) 9, 8, 8
* "Instant Romance" by Dafney Dewitt (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In my Honors English Class several years ago I had a lazy student who was the
scion of a wealthy family. The assignment was to write a short story, and he
turned in a short masterpiece entitled something like "The Surprise." I
recognized it immediately as a slightly modified version of Saki's "The Open
Window." Instead of accusing him of plagiarism, I simply gave him an F and
made up silly criticisms of the story - describing it as shallow and
unimaginative and accusing the author of such foibles as "poor word choice"
and "unimaginative imagery." It was an exquisite form of torture. The kid
knew I was full of baloney - after all, the story was actually written by H.H.
Munro (Saki), one of the greatest authors of short stories in the English
language. But he couldn't say that to me or even tell anybody else, because
to do so he would have to admit that he had plagiarized the story.
The present story is also an adaptation of "The Open Window." The author
openly admits the connection; so this is NOT plagiarism. It's a pretty good
story, but a weak adaptation. If you've never read "The Open Window" - or,
for that matter, if a smart-assed English teacher once gave you an F for
plagiarizing it - you should dig that story out from your old anthology or get
it from the library and take a look at it. The main feature that the original
story possesses but the present story lacks is the double whammy. In Saki's
story a fiendishly clever little girl scares the shit out of a simple-minded
visitor by feeding him a scenario about something that was supposed to have
happened in the past. The visitor accepts this lie as true, and then is
horrified to see the scene re-enacted before his eyes. He runs away in
terror, thinking he has seen a ghost. The little girl, of course, knew this
would happen. The family expresses wonderment over the visitor's sudden
departure, and with equal facility the little demon generates an equally
untrue story to explain why the guest ran away. Romance at short notice was
indeed her specialty. In the present story, a surprise visitor simply "wings
it" to have some fun with his sister's roommate. It's fun, but nowhere near
the level of sophistication of Saki's story.
I think there's huge potential to turn this and other classical short stories
into really sexy masterpieces. The present author has merely taken a kernel
of an idea and has omitted most of the original author's insights - the
ability of the little girl to build up in the mind of her listener the
irrational reaction which caused him to run out of the room and then to
explain his unnatural behavior through a second lie. If anyone has the time,
I'd love to see someone else take a shot at a sexy version of this story line.
There are many other possibilities - an X-rated version of O. Henry's "The
Ransom of Red Chief" or "The Gift of the Magi"; a sexy rendition of Conrad's
"The Secret Sharer"; any number of Poe's stories. I would even proclaim
another new contest, but someone has pointed out to me that my current Third
contest is actually my Fourth. Life gets complicated when you get past
Ratings for "Instant Romance"
Athena (technical quality): 9
Venus (plot & character): 8
Celeste (appeal to reviewer): 8