Wednesday, February 28, 2007

There's a reason it's called "the real thing"

Without falling into the trap of condemning all abridgement - it happens on radio without a squeak of protest - at least half these titles should not be on the list. The fact that Moby-Dick is a digressive, unboildownable whale of a book is the whole point; The Portrait of a Lady, Vanity Fair and Middlemarch are straightforward reads - page turners, even for less confident readers, though in the case of Middlemarch there are admittedly a lot of pages to turn. The rambling David Copperfield is ripe for cutting, but Bleak House, in which Dickens was consciously widening his scope as an artist, is not. A great novel is more than its plot; it is an ecosystem, a world. Tamper at your peril.

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