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May 24th, 2007

Slice And Dice The "Dick"?

Hyperlinked via Bookninja, I jumped over to this NY Times article about Orion books publishing a series of pared down classics like Moby-Dick and David Copperfield. As I make a great deal of my writing living from paring down classics for kids, I’m always torn when I read about stuff like this.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t ever consider discouraging anyone from reading any book, abridged or otherwise, and if the classic Moby-Dick is just too much novel for you, then hey, at least you’re getting the gist of the story, right? But on the other hand, why on earth would you need to do this for an adult audience? What holy purpose does it serve? Books, in and of themselves, are microcosmic looks at a time and a place, and while we might consider some of the classics over-written, they have managed to earmark their place in our collective creative soul for a reason, and why change them?

My own Classic Starts are primarily for kids. But does that even matter? I think so, and I really believe, especially after my own classroom visit, that reading of all kinds inspires children. And Frankenstein, Robinson Crusoe, Little Women, they’re all great stories, ones that I worked extremely hard to retain the original essence of when abridging them for younger readers. Are the writers/editors of these adult abridged editions going to do the same thing? And do you really think there are classics out there that need to be trimmed for this day and age? Probably, but that’s not really for me to say, I don’t think…

To me, it sort of reeks of the Restoration, when they gave Shakespeare happy endings because that was the spirit of drama at the time. Necessary then, but I’m pleased to punch that Hamlet was restored with Ophelia entirely in her grave by the time I ended up at university.

2 Responses to “Slice And Dice The "Dick"?”

  • Kerry says:

    You are very right! One of the first books I ever loved was an abridged Anne of Green Gables when I was too young to read the real thing, and it made me fall in love with the story, which led me to the book that made me love books. So there. The work you do with your abridgements is so important, absolutely. But abridgements for literate adults are so lame.


  • Zesty says:

    I agree with you. But the other side of this argument is if you’re an adult with a learning disability, are getting your diploma or come from a background that was deprived of education for whatever reason, then these abridgements can be a less intimidating way to access works that as you rightly point out, have earmarked themselves a place in our collective culture for very good reasons.

    My gut feel on this is that the majority of the adults reading these abridgements will be the ones that need them. Otherwise it is just an exercise in laziness for more literate adults, something in which their ego won’t let them particpate. LOL!


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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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