Friday, January 26, 2007

Boycott Weidenfeld & Nicolson!

Oh wait, I'm in America, I can't. But if I lived in England I would.

By way of The Reading Experience and Jenny Diski comes news of this revoltin' development, recently announced in The Guardian: "Despite the trend for new-look classics lists, no publisher has dared to meddle with the texts - until now. Weidenfeld & Nicolson is to launch a list of edited literary classics, called Compact Editions. It claims that market research shows many readers are put off by the 'elitist' image of classics and by their daunting length and small print. So the Compact Editions - slogan 'Great Books in Half the Time' - have been 'sympathetically edited' down to fewer than 400 pages each. Weidenfeld insists that the novels retain the core plot, characters and historical background. The first six titles - Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair, David Copperfield, The Mill on the Floss, Moby-Dick and Wives and Daughters - are to be released in May and will doubtless be snapped up by students eager to cut down their reading time."

Doubtless. This offends me on so many levels I scarce know where to begin. The imbeciles at W&N apparently feel they know better than the authors of the classic novels cited above how their stories should be told, and I daresay in the process what they are gutting is what makes these books immortal, which is that they are works of individual -- rather than group -- genius, and in the process what they are going to do is instruct a whole new generation about what classic literature really is, which will of course be their bastardized version of it.

I absolutely do not at all get why anyone wants to read a 400-page abridement of anything, do you? Stay with the real thing anoyther week or two and you'll have the satiisfaction of knowing you read the real book. Why have shit when you can have steak? Because it's quicker?

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

It is revolting, but then I have to confess that as a child I read my share of Reader's Digest Condensed Books and "Great Illustrated Classics" ( But as an adult, no.