Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Classics the Easy Way

There are books you want to read, and then there are books you want to have read. For the ones in the latter group, you can now turn to "Compact Editions" published by Orion. TimesOnline has the story of a new line of edited literary classics. Of course, not everyone is happy about the idea of a version of Anna Karenina with 30-40% cut out:

Matthew Crockatt, of the London independent bookshop Crockatt & Powell, poured scorn on the enterprise. “It’s completely ridiculous — a daft idea,” he said.

“How can you edit the classics? I’m afraid reading some of these books is hard work, which is why you have to develop as a reader. If people don’t have time to read Anna Karenina, then fine. But don’t read a shortened version and kid yourself it’s the real thing.”

Interesting. Is there no middle ground between reading the whole thing and "kidding yourself"? What if you are interested in a piece of literature for non-artistic reasons and the gist is enough? Or if you read the version that is not the "real thing," does it spoil forever the prospect of reading the full version? Does that go for every book, or just the ones that are deemed "classics"?

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