05 January 2010

For Whom the Bill Tolls

As Bill Madison awoke one morning from troubled dreams,
he found himself transformed into a giant insect.

A friend has written with what he describes as “distressing news”: the promotion of new, personalized editions of classic books, including Dracula, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Pride and Prejudice. The idea is that a book substituting the reader’s name for the hero’s, and those of his friends for those of other characters, will be more appealing. What you can’t do with a computer these days!

Several companies do this; some even permit customers to add their names to that of the original author, as in the case of a book offered as a gift: “By William Shakespeare and Mom and Dad.”

Distressing? Not at all. For my part, I think this is a brilliant idea, artistic integrity and copyright be damned. For how often have I read a reputedly great book and found it somehow strangely lacking — my name! (Especially on the cover.)

How much more I would have enjoyed Le Rouge et le Noir had the hero been named Bill Madison, instead of Julien Sorel! I admit I was mildly intrigued by Jay Gatsby, yet The Great Madison has irresistible allure. And I’m sure the general public would pay handsomely to see The Tragedy of Bill Madison, Prince of Denmark, even without Jude Law as the star.

So I immediately set out to rewrite a number of favorite books. I share with you a few first lines, in the certainty that you will see at once how immeasurably they are improved.


My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Bill Madison. So, I called myself Bill Madison, and came to be called Bill Madison.
-- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations of Bill Madison


Once upon a time, there were four little Rabbits, and their names were — Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Bill Madison.
-- Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Bill Madison

Not to be confused with Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Madisons
(Seen here, Bill Thumb and Hunca Linca)


You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Jon Feldstein, but that ain't no matter.
-- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Madison


Bill Madison was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
-- Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the William
[Apparently, the editors can change proper names, but not pronouns.]


Call me Bill Madison.
-- Herman Melville, Moby–Dick Madison


And of course…

In the beginning, there was Bill Madison.
-- The Bible (King Bill Version)


Anonymous said...

Here's some I'd like to see: Who's Afraid of Elise Goyette?, (It's a VERY scary thing, right?), Glen Goyette Glen Ross, Rosencrantz and Goyette are Dead, and the tearjerker, Come Back, Little Elise.

William V. Madison said...

Personally, I'm eager to see Goyette on a Hot Tin Roof.

ABC-WFT said...

You made me laugh!

compostmoi said...

Good God, you blog is fun!


(yes, the Evalyn of that magical ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF EVALYN)

Suep said...

I howled! Your humor and writing are sublime. Thank you for this bright spot in my day. I cannot stop reading your posts!