Monday, April 13, 2009

Abridged over Troubled Waters

For my older daughter's seventh birthday, a guest gave her an abridged version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's A LITTLE PRINCESS.

Abridged! To the daughter of two English-major book snobs? I appreciated the thought, but barely had the guests gone when that book magically "disappeared," and I steered her to the legitimate copy I'd had waiting for her on her bookshelf since she was conceived. You wouldn't crop the Mona Lisa, would you? Or not sing all seventeen possible verses of "Amazing Grace"? Oh, well, you might do that.

In any case, I found my standards slipping recently. When I was preparing to lead a book club discussion (for which people had paid good money) on Geraldine Brooks' MARCH (see 3/4/09 blog post on, I pulled my childhood copy of Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN off the shelf to reread. Imagine my dismay when I noticed, for the first time in my life, the tiny little words on the title page: "Abridged."

Horrors! All my life I'd been reading an abridged copy without realizing it! Who knew what Alcottian prose delights I'd been missing all this time? Unfortunately, time didn't permit me running to the library to get a complete version, and I couldn't bear to part with this version because it featured full-color illustrations I'd loved forever.

So be it. I knowingly read my first abridgement and enjoyed it thoroughly, as I always had.

Then came the second test: my book club chose Dumas' THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, of which I had a perfectly good copy on the shelves dating from my high school years. All the complaining about the book's length from other club members aroused my suspicions, however, and when I examined my modest, inch-thick copy, there is was on the front cover in invisible white print: "Abridged." Tiny print had struck again!

But now I had plenty else on my plate: trying to get my manuscript ready for the printer, drafting an article I wanted to shop around, figuring out how to set up a sole proprietorship, etc. It was going to have to be the abridgement.

I'm still a book snob, but I've been taken down a notch. When time and convenience call, it appears I'll lower my standards.

And it's not all bad. Chateau D'If? No problem. My Dantes was out of there by page 66, while my friend's unabridged version by page 224 only had him witnessing Faria's first cataleptic fit. Whew! Who's got time for that? I have blog posts to write.

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