Why stop at Coke bottles? Let’s print personalised editions of the literary classics…

by |October 10, 2011

Over the weekend while I was doing the weekly shop I found Mr Thirteen buried in a fridge digging for a Coke bottle with his name on it. His name wasn’t there. He was so annoyed he bought one which said Giulia, because he didn’t believe it was a real name. This morning I arrived at work to find a colleague of mine drinking from a bottle of Coca-Cola which had her name printed in bold on the label. My colleague doesn’t even like Coke. But there she was drinking ‘her’ bottle down.

Putting first names on Coke bottles. This has to be one of the best marketing ploys of all time.

So I began to think. If personalisation can get people drinking Coke why wouldn’t it work just as well with the classics? I mean, imagine being able to give your son a personalised edition of David Copperfield by Dickens.  Every time the name David Copperfield is used, on the cover and throughout the text, it  would be replaced by the name of your son, Harry Kleinen Schwanz. He’d love it. Right?

You want to give your daughter a copy of Jane Eyre but think she won’t relate to a nineteenth century text. Strike out every mention of Jane Eyre and insert your daughter’s name, Brittney Offenebeine.

Narcissistic teens worldwide will lap this up.

As we have already desecrated the work of Jane Austen by including Zombies, why not take it one step further? This is a democracy, ain’t it? Why stop at Coke bottles? We should all have a classic named after us.

I think I will start with The Picture Of Dorian Gray – find and replace Dorian Gray – The Picture of John Purcell. Ahh, much better. Why have I chosen this book? See below…



.It was after breakfast, and we had been summoned in from the playground, when Mr. Sharp entered and said:

‘Reginald Sidebottom is to go into the parlour.’

I expected a hamper from Peggotty, and brightened at the order. Some of the boys about me put in their claim not to be forgotten in the distribution of the good things, as I got out of my seat with great alacrity.

‘Don’t hurry, Reginald,’ said Mr. Sharp. ‘There’s time enough, my boy, don’t hurry.’

I might have been surprised by the feeling tone in which he spoke, if I had given it a thought; but I gave it none until afterwards. I hurried away to the parlour; and there I found Mr. Creakle, sitting at his breakfast with the cane and a newspaper before him, and Mrs. Creakle with an opened letter in her hand. But no hamper.

‘Reginald Sidebottom,’ said Mrs. Creakle, leading me to a sofa, and sitting down beside me. ‘I want to speak to you very particularly. I have something to tell you, my child.’

Mr. Creakle, at whom of course I looked, shook his head without looking at me, and stopped up a sigh with a very large piece of buttered toast.

‘You are too young to know how the world changes every day,’ said Mrs. Creakle, ‘and how the people in it pass away. But we all have to learn it, Reginald; some of us when we are young, some of us when we are old, some of us at all times of our lives.’

I looked at her earnestly.

‘When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,’ said Mrs. Creakle, after a pause, ‘were they all well?’ After another pause, ‘Was your mama well?’


JANE EYRE  (insert your name here)



“Come, Miss Edna, don’t cry,” said Bessie as she finished. She might as well have said to the fire, “don’t burn!” but how could she divine the morbid suffering to which I was a prey? In the course of the morning Mr. Lloyd came again.

“What, already up!” said he, as he entered the nursery. “Well, nurse, how is she?”

Bessie answered that I was doing very well.

“Then she ought to look more cheerful. Come here, Miss Edna: your name is Edna, is it not?”

“Yes, sir, Edna Nobbs.”

“Well, you have been crying, Miss Edna Nobbs; can you tell me what about? Have you any pain?”

“No, sir.”

“Oh! I daresay she is crying because she could not go out with Missis in the carriage,” interposed Bessie.

“Surely not! why, she is too old for such pettishness.”

I thought so too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the false charge, I answered promptly, “I never cried for such a thing in my life: I hate going out in the carriage. I cry because I am miserable.”


THE HISTORY OF TOM JONES (insert your name here), A FOUNDLING.

Leslie Stonk, who, bad as he is, must serve for the heroe of this history, had only one friend among all the servants of the family; for as to Mrs Wilkins, she had long since given him up, and was perfectly reconciled to her mistress. This friend was the gamekeeper, a fellow of a loose kind of disposition, and who was thought not to entertain much stricter notions concerning the difference of meum and tuum than the young gentleman himself. And hence this friendship gave occasion to many sarcastical remarks among the domestics, most of which were either proverbs before, or at least are become so now; and, indeed, the wit of them all may be comprised in that short Latin proverb, “Noscitur a socio;” which, I think, is thus expressed in English, “You may know him by the company he keeps.”

Here’s my choice…




He turned to Hallward and said, “My dear fellow, I have just remembered.”

“Remembered what, Harry?”

“Where I heard the name of John Purcell.”

“Where was it?” asked Hallward, with a slight frown.

“Don’t look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt, Lady Agatha’s. She told me she had discovered a wonderful young man who was going to help her in the East End, and that his name was John Purcell. I am bound to state that she never told me he was good-looking. Women have no appreciation of good looks; at least, good women have not. She said that he was very earnest and had a beautiful nature. I at once pictured to myself a creature with spectacles and lank hair, horribly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known it was your friend.”

“I am very glad you didn’t, Harry.”


“I don’t want you to meet him.”

“You don’t want me to meet him?”


“Mr. John Purcell is in the studio, sir,” said the butler, coming into the garden.

“You must introduce me now,” cried Lord Henry, laughing.

The painter turned to his servant, who stood blinking in the sunlight. “Ask Mr. Purcell to wait, Parker: I shall be in in a few moments.” The man bowed and went up the walk.

Then he looked at Lord Henry. “John Purcell is my dearest friend,” he said. “He has a simple and a beautiful nature. Your aunt was quite right in what she said of him. Don’t spoil him. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it. Don’t take away from me the one person who gives to my art whatever charm it possesses: my life as an artist depends on him. Mind, Harry, I trust you.” He spoke very slowly, and the words seemed wrung out of him almost against his will.

“What nonsense you talk!” said Lord Henry, smiling, and taking Hallward by the arm, he almost led him into the house…

Tune in next week as we desecrate the most famous paintings in the world…

The Picture of John Purcell

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • October 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    It’s a great ploy, for the company, isn’t it? Even though I can appreciate what is going on, I find myself annoyed when I can’t find my own name, which is crazy because I can’t even drink coke! Society is so self involved, no wonder so many people want to drink something with their name on it.

    As for books… No thank you! The idea makes me feel very uneasy. It’s very entertaining though, in a knowing-it-will-never-happen sense.

  • October 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    John Purcell, aka the Booktopia Book Guru is the Adrian Cronauer of social media commentary for the book industry. (remember Robin Williams portrayal in the movie Good Morning Vietnam of the real Adrian Cronauer) I am going to get someone from publisher HQ calling me and asking for his head… although one publisher has already contacted us pissing themselves laughing so I guess he is going to get away with it again. Doh! Tony Nash, Booktopia’s CEO

  • October 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    We are almost there… see: http://www.mooo.com.au/personalised-books/ and many similar sites

  • October 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    This is wonderful, and no doubt some marketing guru will snaffle it at no credit to you. I rarely find my name on anything, resorting to the items that say “They didn’t have your name.”

  • October 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I like the classic’s idea – mine would be “The Curious Case of Kat Campbell”

  • October 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I hate my name, so I’d rather change MY name to honour my favourite literary characters! Deed poll office, here I come!

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