Is Literature Supposed to be Convenient?
John Liechty has a piece about the Orion Publishing Company’s decision to edit a series of classic books, stripping them down to around 30% to 40% of their original length.
Ray Bradbury foresees a time when books will be burned, or changed, or “corrected” â€“ when Poe and Shakespeare will have the soul cut out of them. It is a frightening and sad thought, and frightening and sad as well to consider how prophetic Fahrenheit 451 has already shown itself to be. While Orionâ€™s decision to cut the classics is hardly a fulfilment of Bradbury’s prophecy, one wonders if it might not be a nod in that direction, a nudge towards a time when our greatest authors will not be given enough consideration to keep their books as they were written.
One of Orion’s planned publications is Moby-Dick. “We realized that because the books were so long we were never going to read them,” Malcolm Edwards, deputy CEO at Orion, explained. Other publications will be Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair, Middlemarch, Portrait of a Lady and David Copperfield, followed by still more “long, slow, and repetitive” texts.
“Moby-Dick must have been difficult in 1850 â€“ in 2007 itâ€™s nigh-on impossible to make your way through it. But with our 350-page version the story and the characters emerge.”
The silly things people say when they’re dumbing down heritage and patronising their customers . . .