Monty Python: "Novel-Writing"

And now itís time for novel-writing, which today comes from the West Country, from Dorset.      X sound: Novel Writing.mp3                                                                     

(Voice of first reporter). Hello, and welcome to Dorchester, where a very good crowd has turned out to watch local boy Thomas Hardy write his new novel The Return of the Native on this very pleasant July morning. This will be his eleventh novel and the fifth of the very popular Wessex novels; and here he comes, here comes Hardy walking out toward his desk, he looks confident, he looks relaxed, very much the man in form as he acknowledges this very good-natured Bank Holiday crowd. And the crowd goes quiet now as Hardy settles himself down at his desk, body straight, shoulders relaxed, pen held lightly but firmly in the right hand, he dips the pen in the ink and heís off! Itís the first word, but itís not a word, oh no, itís a doodle way up on the left-hand margin, itís a piece of meaningless scribble and heís signed his name underneath. Oh dear, what a disappointing start! But heís off again and here he goes, the first word of Thomas Hardyís first novel at 10.35 on this very lovely morning, itís three letters, itís the definite article and itís "the", Dennis.

(Voice of Dennis) Well, this is true to form, no surprises there. Heís started five of his eleven novels to date with the definite article. Weíve had two of them with "it", thereís been one "but", two "ats", one "and" and a "Dolores"(?). Oh, that , of course, was never published.

Iím sorry to interrupt you there, Dennis, but heís crossed it out! Thomas Hardy here on the first day of his new novel has crossed out the only word heís written so far, and heís gazing off into space. Oh dear, heís signed his name again.

(Voice of Dennis) It looks like Tess of the DíUrbervilles all over again.

(Voice of first reporter) But heís, no heís down again and writing, Dennis. Heís written "the " again and heís written "a" and thereís a second word coming up and itís "sat". "A sat ...", doesnít make sense, "a satur ...", "a Saturday", itís "a Saturday", and the crowd are loving it, they are really enjoying this novel. And "this afternoon", "this Saturday afternoon in, in, in know ..., knowvember", November is spelled wrong, ... but heís not going back, it looks as if heís going for a sentence, and itís the first verb coming up, the first verb of the novel and itís "was"! Ė and the crowd are going wild. "A Saturday afternoon in November was" Ė and a long word here Ė "appro ..., appro ...", is it "approval"? No, itís "approaching, approaching". "A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching", and heís done the definite article "the" again, and heís writing fluently, easily with flowing strokes of the pen as he comes up to the middle of this first sentence. And with his eleventh novel well under way and the prospects of a good dayís writing ahead, back to the studio.

... we interrupt the sketch to take you straight back to novel-writing from Dorchester and the latest news about that opening sentence.

(Voice of first reporter) Well, the noise you can hear is because Hardy has just completed his first sentence and itís a real cracker, just listen to this: "A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment" and that after only three hours of writing. What a "hardyesque" cracker.

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