Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Editing the classics, even the Bible

In another dispatch from the short-attention span culture (of which I am a part), The Times of London reports:

“To howls of indignation from literary purists, a leading publishing house is slimming down some of the world’s greatest novels.

“Tolstoy, Dickens and Thackeray would not have agreed with the view that 40 per cent of Anna Karenina, David Copperfield and Vanity Fair are mere ‘padding’, but Orion Books believes that modern readers will welcome the shorter versions.

“The first six Compact Editions, billed as great reads ‘in half the time’, will go on sale next month, with plans for 50 to 100 more to follow.”

It’s hard to take this seriously. Editing great works of literature is supposed to be funny.

For example, the Reduced Shakespeare Company is touring the United States with its live performance of “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged).” Robert Brustein, founding director of the American Repertory Theater, called it “absolutely outrageous and absolutely wonderful,” adding that it’s “totally irreverent and I think anyone who sees it is going to have a whale of a good time.”

What’s the difference between the Reduced Shakespeare Co. and Orion Books?

Orion Books isn’t trying to be funny.

The rest of The Times article on Orion Books is at http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/fiction/article1652629.ece .

The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Web site is http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/ .

-Colin Burch

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