MOST good stories start with ‘once upon a time’ — and here’s a another.
But this one is true . . .
Once upon a time there was a bright young lad from Bolton who decided he wanted to get his name into the Guinness Book of Records.
Bolton, known mainly as the home of the Bolton Wanderers Football Club, is a a town in the Manchester region that became known for its textiles after Flemish weavers settled there back in the 14th century.
That bit of history probably has nothing to do with the bright young lad’s achievement, but you’ll be relieved to know it has nothing to do with football.
The Flemish weaving part might have played a bit since the lad wove a lot of data into his brain’s memory chip as he set about his attempt — which was to learn the first lines of as many books as he could.
To cut a very long story short, the boy, Monty Lord, read the opening pages of a great many books, and was able to identify them just by hearing their first sentence.
Monty, aged just 14, consecutively identified 129 books, and won a place in Guinness World Records by beating the previous record — a mere 30 (formerly held by a man in India).
Monty told the Daily Mail he became fascinated by the powers of memory while doing a correspondence course in psychology.
When his father, TV producer Fabian Lord, challenged him to get into the record books, he accepted and picked on the feat for the most consecutive books identified from their first sentence.
Monty studied the openings of 200 works using visualisation techniques.
He then sat in a classroom at his school, St Joseph’s High in Bolton, and was filmed as Mr Lord read out 130 opening lines.
He would have identified all 130 correctly had his 44-year-old father not made a mistake at the start, saying the title instead of the opening line of the first book.
The list contained many children’s favourites, such as the first Harry Potter, The Gruffalo and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn.
But it also ranged from William Shakespeare’s plays to Ian Fleming’s Bond books, Iain Banks to Franz Kafka – and included controversial works such as Lolita and A Clockwork Orange.
“I had two or three weeks to memorise the first lines,” Monty said.
“I would try to find a link with the title, so Harry Potter was quite easy, but I did get stuck on Lord Of The Rings because I thought it might be The Hobbit – but realised I had already said that one.”
Eleven days after achieving his feat last month, he received an email from Guinness World Records titled You’re Officially Amazing — informing him of his success.
“I was half asleep when my dad burst in and announced I was now a world memory champion,” Monty said.
‘It didn’t really sink in for a couple of hours. It’s great but I’m just me and probably everyone has a record in them they can break.”
The feat should come as no surprise as Monty is already an author.
He released his first book, Freaky School, when he was just seven – and put his memory skills to the test last summer when he recited the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, at his father’s wedding . . . a task he said he found harder.
Here are 10 of the opening lines Monty memorised. Can you guess which books they came from?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.
My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.
Once there was a little girl called Sophie.
What’s it going to be then, eh?
The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.
The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.
Call me Ishmael.
Oddly enough, none of them started with ‘once upon a time.’