Friday, September 23, 2005

Abridged and edited

Laura at Image hosted by Photobucket.com used another one of my questions this week - this is getting embarrassing, someone else suggest some questions too!!

I have to admit these are two of my pet peeves when it comes to books, so beware!

1. Are abridged books a good thing or just plain awful?
It depends on why they're abridged. I think those Reader's Digest abridged compilations are great - something to have in a B&B or holiday cottage that can be read quickly and a good way to find new authors. But cutting random chunks out of a previously published book without telling the reader and then letting them think it's the whole thing is just evil!

2. How about books that are edited to modernize them?
Yuk, yuk, yuk! (see below!)

3. Is dated language part of the charm of a book or an irritation?
Within reason (un-modernised Chaucer is a bit hard to read I admit!), I believe books should be left as they were written. Surely it is part of the charm - we don't expect Jane Austen for example to write with modern idioms, so why do some authors get edited to bring them more up to date?

4. Have you ever read an abridged or edited version of a book?
Oh yes, and this is the reason for my annoyance! When I was a teenager I read a lot of the Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. While I appreciate that if they hadn't been republished in paperback I'd probably never have read them, the publisher did a horrific job modernising and abridging them. Some were left almost alone, others were seemingly randomly cut by up to a third. The whole tone of some of the books was changed. Years later I discovered this and felt cheated. The paperbacks didn't say they were abridged or modernised. And the same happened with the Nancy Drew series - though I don't think they were cut quite as much, the early ones are certainly edited to modernise them.
If you read the full versions of any of these books they are so much better. They flow better, they're more in character and more in the right period. If a publisher is going to modernise (yuk!) or abridge a book the reader should be told it has been changed so he or she has the choice of hunting out the original text or not.

I'll stop here - I could rant about this but you don't want to read that!

(By the way, if you too feel cheated Nancy Drew is now being republished in its original form by Applewood Books, and the Chalet School series and others are being published in their original form by Girls Gone By Publishers.)

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