Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3619 Set by John Crick

Jonathan Bate described Titus Andronicus as "a slasher movie . . . bloody revenge, dismemberment, miscegenation, rape and cannibalism". We asked for blurbs that present literary classics in such a way as to appeal to modern tastes.

Report by Grace Elegy

You approached this in various ways and clearly had markedly different ideas as to the tastes to which you were appealing. Had I been a young person and never read Jane Eyre, The Lyrical Ballads, Paradise Lost or Moby Dick, I can imagine that I might have been tempted. £15 to winners; the champagne is awarded to D A Prince.

It was a time of sexual repression. But Jane Eyre is about to discover the strange desires that simmer below the respectable veneer of Victorian society. Bondage, lesbianism, transvestism and paraphilia all await Jane as she embarks on a sexual odyssey of self-discovery. Experience her terror in the "Red Room", when older women tie her to a chair to satisfy the desires of the sadistic John Reed. After this ordeal, Jane is sent to boarding school where she finds consolation in the bed of fellow student Helen Burns and in the Headmistress's private quarters. Next, Jane becomes governess at Thornfield, presided over by the dissolute, predatory Mr Rochester. She is shocked to discover not only his taste for cross-dressing but also that he keeps his wife chained in the attic. Jane escapes Rochester's attempts at seduction and is given shelter by an apparently devout clergyman. But when he seeks to persuade her of the delights of the missionary position, it's time to move on again! Jane returns to Rochester, now blind and maimed as a result of his sexual adventures, but will she really find sexual satisfaction in a paraphiliac relationship?

Mike Sanders

One wedding, and delirium, necrophilia, leering madness, idiocy, dementia: Lyrical Ballads reinvents the familiar, confronts the mangled fantasies of nightmare and goes beyond death or its ghastly climaxes. Launched on the out-of-body experiences of the Ancient Mariner's deranged neuroses and the dizzying crossbow bloodbath and gore-drenched slaughter of the Albatross; scorched on a sea rotten with slime and writhing forms of putrefying half-life; pitched among the hellish ghosts raised by curses from the shrivelling dead; and every revenge that a mutilated world forces into the guts of its human destroyer - and then tipped over into the queasy questioning in the afterlife of the "real" world. Hanging, drowning, bloody horrors: they haunt The Thorn and its lonely moor, with the gut-wrenching spectre of child murder, and grim secrets of the mossy mound; infantile necrophilia seen through the abused vision of an eight-year-old girl; matriarchal madness and lingering self-harm teetering on the edge of suicide - the mind's diseases and tortures are made grisly flesh, the flesh made putrid decay, and the language as raw as concentrated acid.

D A Prince

Bigger and more gruesome than Jaws, Moby Dick is the grand-daddy of them all . . . the epic story of a killer-whale that thinks. Meet the devilishly cunning Moby Dick and his protagonist, the monomaniac Captain Ahab, one-legged master of the sailing-ship Pequod.

Who is the hunter, who is the hunted?

Thrill to the duel between two possessed creatures on the high seas. A heart- stopping contest that lasts for three days as Moby Dick seeks revenge for the pain the mad mariner has inflicted on him over the years and Captain Ahab corners Moby Dick to punish him for his lost leg.

Who will win: whale or man?

This extraordinary book is the story of a struggle for supremacy in tempestuous oceans. Are we dealing with flesh or primeval spirit?

Fight like a whale

Computerised technology now enables you to experience how a whale thinks. A game-disc is included with your copy, so that you can continue the blood-curdling struggle on your own computer. Authenticity as never before experienced. Swish through the deeps. Fight like a whale. Mate like a whale. Kill like a whale. Provide your own spectacular ending.

Connie Yapp

Paradise Lost is a Spielberg film waiting to be made, a succession of thrilling set pieces: God going 15 rounds with Satan and pitching him into Hell's burning lake, the most spectacular skydiving feat in history; the gargantuan Arch-fiend's followers acclaiming his rabble-rousing like the massed ranks of Nazis in a Leni Riefenstahl extravaganza - "millions of flaming swords/Drawn from the thighs of mighty Cherubim"; Satan's encounter at Hell's Gate with Sin (spawned from his own head); Death, the result of their incestuous coupling, and Hell-hounds conceived from Death's rape of his mother, into whose womb they crawl to gnaw on her entrails.

But special effects are not the whole story, which has a human heart. Eve, a wilful adventuress and the world's first militant feminist, rejects her prescribed gender role and goes in search of fruit that is strictly off-limits, lured by Satan, now metamorphosed into a dangerously seductive anaconda. Having eaten the forbidden apple, Eve persuades the pussy-whipped Adam to share her illicit thrill. The fruit inflames their lust; but orgiastic frenzy eventually gives way to shame. They rush to cover their private parts and await the wrath of God. Sensational!

Watson Weeks

No 3622 Set by Desmond Donovan

Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone) described the Mothers' Small-Clothes Conversion Society, whose purpose is to "rescue unredeemed fathers' trousers from the pawnbroker, and to prevent their resumption, on the part of the irreclaimable parent, by abridging them immediately to suit the proportions of the innocent son". We want other charities that have so far failed to be founded. Max 200 words by 30 March. (E-mail:

This article first appeared in the 20 March 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: yet again, they are lying to us