I have often wondered what today’s editors would make of past classics if they were submitted now. So here’s my take of a telephone conversation of a commissioning editor talking to authors of classic books who have just submitted their first manuscripts.

Not that I have suffered from my editors, of course, I love you all, honest..

Hansel and Gretel.  Sorry Grimm guys your story is totally unbelievable. Today’s kids are very smart you know. I mean how stupid can the witch be to mistake a bone for Hansel’s finger? And why his finger? I would have checked his belly and his sides if I wanted to check whether he’s fat enough. I do like the magic in it though. I suggest you turn the witch to a Cannibal Queen with superpowers and make Hansel and Gretel the reluctant heroes of a rival Vegetarian Empire.

Moby Dick. Sorry Hermann but this is too rambling. I concede it may sell with the Save the Whale mob, but can you see it sold in Tesco’s? I can’t, except in the fish section. What do you mean it’s not a fish? It’s in the sea innit? What? Hermann stop being such a cleverdick! I strongly suggest you get a life and stop obsessing, there are cuter things in life you can write about. What about a hamster?

Crime and Punishment. Sorry Feodor, but is this a mystery, a thriller or what? We know whodunit from the beginning. And there is only one victim which is not that interesting. An old lady who isn’t even a duchess. Readers want action and mystery in high places, a bit of entertainment. I suggest you make this guy Rascal, Raskol.. whatever, a serial killer and tell the story from the inspector’s point of view. And give a funny name to the detective not the killer.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Sorry Alexander, but this reads like a diary. You know, I woke up, washed my face, started work, went to lunch, started work again, dinner, sleep. If you were Katie Price you might pull it off, but you are clearly not and your mate Ivan certainly isn’t. In Siberia? It all happens in Siberia, you say? Oh that’s why the guy’s cold all the time. I suggest you go back to the drawing board and place it on a Greek Island over several days, and re-imagine it as potential musical.

Macbeth. Sorry William, but it’s full of stereotypes especially where women characters are concerned. Three witches? Can’t you introduce a warlock? OK, OK. Then Lady Macbeth goes hysterical, too much of a male chauvinist perspective. Plus you are repeating yourself “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”? We’ve understood with only one Tomorrow, thank you. I suggest a complete rewrite with positive female role models.

In Patagonia  Sorry Bruce, but does anything happen here and I’ve missed it? Patagonia may be flat and featureless but any author worth his salt should be able to sex it up. Did you not have any sexual experiences with bosom ladies we can include, like Paul Theroux? You had? With men? Oh forget it then. *hangs up*