Creativity: A bonfire of the vanities
Tuesday 12 July 1994
Back with Len Clarke, we have another ecological idea. Find a tree with a suitably vicious dryad and say: 'Look what this bloke's done with all your sisters]'
'In an office where I once worked,' Mark Walmsley reminisces, 'a copy of First Among Equals was used to prop open the canteen window in hot weather. Nobody seemed to mind.' He also proposes encasing a collection in perspex 'as a monument to the erosion of intellectual standards and the stultification of social aspirations of the Thatcher era.' This may be more or less what Clair Paul has in mind when she suggests: 'Put Jeffrey Archer's collected works in a time-capsule and bury it.'
Fiona and John Earle point out that the individual letters in the books could be put at the bottom lines of opticians' charts 'which nobody can read anyway.'
Steph and Paul calculate that you would need 10 cubic metres in the skip for their primary suggestion, but if that is too straightforward, they have a range of ideas: fuel (although this may encourage the imposition of VAT on books); donation to playgroups ('where the little Waynes and Emmas could happily destroy them without incurring adult rage'); upstairs-window ammunition (for bombing Conservative canvassers).
Paul ('no Steph yet') Clark proposes reading them aloud to torment Yorkshire terriers, or stacked in the bath as staircases for spiders. Bedding for Yorkshire terriers, suggests James McLaren. Bedding for my horse, says Karyn Vitali.
Geoffrey (the good old English spelling, he says) Langley has recently returned from escorting his great aunt on a tour of the tramway systems of eastern Europe, and tells us she is very cross because route 58 in Vienna has been cut back to the Westbahnhof. On the subject of Jeffrey Archer's works, he suggests using them as school texts in France, 'to allay their fears about English as the literary language of choice.'
Glued into a vertical pile, he says, they make a colourful scratching post for Yorkshire terriers. Or 'with alternate volumes cut in twain, they build into an attractive toast-rack and conversation piece.' Mr Langley is working on a doctoral thesis into the coded references in the works of Archer, which 'will reveal that they were written by Francis Bacon (the painter) or Stuart Cockerill'.
'They should be packed into one's holiday baggage,' says Stuart Cockerill, 'to pre-mitigate its loss'. They could also be stored in prison libraries 'discouraging recidivism and satisfying proponents of the death penalty'. Staying with death, he writes: 'A noble lord is deserving of a noble farewell. Lord Archer should be laid atop his complete works on the deck of a Viking longship. The pyre can be lit and the ship thrust out to sea, rewarding the great man with a glorious immolation. Work towards this end should be commenced immediately, because it is only fair that our hero be alive to witness so devout a tribute.'
F Stevens suggests suspending the books by their covers from the ceiling of the House of Lords, contents hanging loose, to terrify their lordships with the threat of unpleasant droppings.
'Inspiration fails me, as it obviously failed him,' writes Paul McHugh. In a later letter, he recants and suggests making them into 'a popular radio serial that no one would listen to'. He suggests the title 'The Archers'.
'As encouragement to unpromising authors', or 'to create a bonfire of the vanities', suggests D C Godfrey, who asks that any cash prize he may win be given to Jeffrey Archer 'as he clearly loves money more than I do.'
Strangely, this week's prize is a second-hand copy of Shall We Tell the President? which we picked up at a primary school fete for 10p. (Half the original price on the day, as nobody would give 20p for it). It is on its way to Mollie Caird of Oxford who asks: 'Who is Jeffrey Archer? What did he write?'
Next week, we shall report on your ideas for ear-lobes and navels. Meanwhile, we seek ideas for the royal yacht, Britannia. Suggestions should be sent to Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.
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