Every great work inspires variants. Here are the opening lines of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not:
You know how it is there early in the morning in Havana with the bums still asleep against the walls of the buildings; before even the ice wagons come by with ice for the bars? Well, we came across the square from the dock to the Pearl of San Francisco café to get coffee and there was only one beggar awake in the square and he was getting a drink out of the fountain. But when we got inside the café and sat down, there were the three of them waiting for us.
We sat down and one of them came over. ‘Well,’ he said.
‘I can’t do it,’ I told him. ‘I’d like to do it as a favor. But I told you last night I couldn’t.’
‘You can name your own price.’
‘It isn’t that. I can’t do it. That’s all.’
And here are the opening lines of Lynn Crawford’s To Have Not and Have:
Few understand it here late in the evening in Oslo with the divas wide awake still opening, closing doors after even fuel company planes fly in fuel for the fires. Well, I navigated to the walkway extending from shore to the Sow’s Ear café to drop off brandy and there were several divas awake spooning meals out of bowls. But when I got inside and leaned on the bar, there was one running from me.
I continued standing and several more ran from me.
‘Hey,’ they carolled.
‘I can do it,’ I told them. ‘I told you this morning it was impossible. But I can do it for a fee.’
‘We name your fee.’
‘Agreed. I can do it. And something else –’
This is an example of antonymy, a technique invented by the French experimental writing group Oulipo in which each designated element in a text is replaced with its opposite.
A simpler example: “To not be and to be: this was an answer.”