7 Mar 2012


Sir Walter Scott as painted by Sir Francis Grant.

I suppose I'm a bit of a hypocrite in that I'm no big fan of the 'classics' and certainly can't recall ever having read IVANHOE by Sir Walter Scott but I'm incensed by Professor David Purdie of the 118-year-old Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club who has claimed ........

"Very few people read Scott these days because he's long and wordy and difficult for the modern ear and modern attention span."
Having spent the last 18 months cutting the story from some 179,000 words to 80,000, Prof Purdie is hoping the new abridged will revive Scott's reputation and make it less 'tedious' for a public more used to the work of JK Rowling and Dan Brown.
- The Telegraph (January 2012) Click HERE to read full article.

Patronising beyond belief, I quite understand the purists who are upset that 'such sacred texts' should be altered, believing that this is the way the author wrote the book and this is the way it should stay.

Hmm, makes you wonder where it will all end, which book will be next? I mean I, along with many other readers, find the likes of Dickens quite hard going because of the somewhat dated language but I'm not sure I'd like to see his works re-written/edited/abridged.

That said, for those who would like to read such books in a perhaps more digestible format, might I suggest that the words 'An abridged novel based on the works of ?????, Edited by ??????' should be added to the cover much as a book that has been translated into another language always gives the translators details as is it truly the works of that author if the words have been in any way, shape or form altered?

And so once again I ask  .......... what thinks you?


themethatisme said...

It's all about the money dear! They need people to buy the book to gain the royalites from the sales. It is a long and erudite book that requires commitment and a good grasp of language for it to remain interesting. Nothing intrinsically wrong with the book, the market place has changed. This is what I was trying to explain to you when we last argued about the respective merits of Hairy Frotter.

GMR said...

I can see their point to some degree...especially with some of the people that come in store...BUT I'm really with you on the "leave it be" bit. The language may be dated but really, HELLO! It's SUPPOSE to be. It wasn't written yesterday, it was written yester-year and despite the times of change we're in, there's still things to be learned from it.

anilkurup said...

I agree with you in total that the likes of Dickens are a tough read now, more because of the language.
So must be William Shakespeare, Tolstoy, the Greek tragedies and many of the classics of yore let alone the Old Testament. But can we think that an abridged version of Shakespeare's play or Anna Kareina would do justice?

It is more to do with our handling of the language and the genre we read often.,

....Petty Witter said...

I still think it patronising to believe that just because someone's usual choice of reading matter is Dan Brown they are not also capable of reading more weighty tomes such as Ivanhoe.

Kelly said...

I'm not a fan of abridged works. If I choose to read a classic, I want to read it as written. Personally, I've loved what Dickens I've read and wasn't put off by the wordiness at all. Ivanho just never interested me enough to pick up.

Kelly said...

And I agree, his opinion comes across as patronizing to me, too. I'm educated enough to read classics, but often just want mindless escapism.

John McElveen said...

Interesting---they can translate the Bible in 40 different texts--but don't mess with Ivanhoe?

What did Ivan hoe anyway, I don't know, Alaska, ar ar--What did Delaware, a New Jersey.

Dickens is a little tough on the flow in my mind too, to be honest!

Glad ya liked one of our earlier Kitties! We found Him a Good home, at the Wongs! That ain't right!

Hugs and thanks for putting up with my weirdness!!!


themethatisme said...

He hoe'd bits of England largely, turning over the early 19th century fascination with romanticism and the middle ages, to make himself a few quid. Also provided us with the 'Locksley' connection with Robin Hood mythologies, allowing Kevin Costner to make even more money out of a porr film.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I think what he said was rude, but sometimes for certain reasons people pick up abridged editions of books. It's fine for me, if that is what they like, but no one should assume that it is because of some deficit a person has. I don't like abridged works or Dan Brown, but I don't share this guys opinion.

Alexia561 said...

Very patronizing! Is he making the assumption that modern readers are too lazy or stupid to appreciate older works? Have to admit that I had a hard time starting A Tale of Two Cities but once I got used to the writing, loved it!

Joseph Pulikotil said...

The originality of classics will be lost if they are abridged. Classics are meant for people who have time and patience to read at leisure and enjoy the wonderful olden days. If some one is going to abridge Leo Tolstoy's book War and Peace or Henry Fielding's book Tom Jones, the books will lose their charm. I have read abridged books in school but that was only to increase my interest in reading the original.The flavor of the original will definitely be lost in the abridged.

Abridge versions are only for the school going children and not for adults. The original classics may to slow goings,descriptive but that is the beauty of those days when people had the time to read and enjoy books unlike the modern days where people are always in a rush and have no time to sit and relax. People in the modern days want everything to be FAST like the FAST FOOD OR the INSTANT COFFEE.

Very interesting post.

Have a lovely day,

Suko said...

I'd rather read a classic in its original form, but I can't argue with the success of abridged editions, or even classics turned into graphic novels!

Jenners said...

It should definitely be printed clearly that it is an edited and abridged version of the book. And, surprisingly, I'm wondering if some of these books would benefit from a good editor -- I'm not sure they had them "back in the day."

naida said...

Interesting topic Petty. I am a fan of the classics. His statement is patronizing. I like my classics to be untouched, and if I'm in the mood for one, I know what kind of reading I'm headed for.
When I want fluff, I read fluff, but that doesn't mean I won't be able to read and appreciate an unabridged classic as well.
I like the 'spoof' books out there too, and again, that doesn't make me a twit who can't enjoy a true classic.
I do agree with your first commentor, it is all about the money.

....Petty Witter said...

Ah that be Husband dearest Naida, please don't agree with him, he'll only get to thinking he is right.