Of course abridged books are bad! They mess with the author's original intentions, and remove the depth and intricacy of the book. Don't mess with the original works if you're not the original author!But, I've begun to think that this is a rather extreme view. So lets do this expository-essay style, and tackle the pros and cons of the issue.
Abridged Books Should Be Prohibited!
As I said above, the arguments against abridging books are very strong. If you wrote something, would you want someone else messing with it, and cutting out parts they thought were "unnecessary"? Of course not. You, clearly, thought those parts were very necessary, which is why you didn't delete them while editing. They are part of what you think makes the story "work."
Similarly, removing parts of the books can potentially remove some of the deeper meanings that the author intended to convey. Good authors make every word have a purpose, and even the removal of a single sentence could be a loss - a small one, but a loss nonetheless - if the book is truly written well. Classics are probably the only books that are ever abridged, and as we all know, most of those are written well in their original state. So why change them?
Abridged Books Are Great!
The purpose of abridged books is to make more difficult books accessible to lower-level readers. So, in that sense, abridged books may be introducing classics to a whole new group of readers. If The Count of Monte Cristo intimidates you, you might read one that is half the size, and then you'll be introduced to the book that you otherwise would never have read.
Now, let's look at the definition of abridge:
"shorten without losing the sense."This in itself implies that the sense will be maintained, if the abridger is an expert at his or her task. However, how can even the best abridger be sure of the author's original intent? Because of this, I tend to agree with the idea that abridged books are not the best option.
But what about the concept of broadening readership that I mentioned as a pro of abridged books?
Now, I've read a few books that I thought could benifit from some cuts - cuts that would make them flow better and eliminate unessesary rambling (Count of Monte Cristo was not one of them, fyi).
War and Peace was one. Les Miserables, as much as I adore it, was another, with its numerous digressions on slang, sewers, Waterloo, etc.
But that's just me.
Others may adore those parts that I skimmed over. A history buff may take unmeasurable pleasure in reading about Waterloo and Napoleon in Les Miserables, when I just wanted to "get to the darn story, already!" Who am I to say that those parts should be cut out?
And regarding reader intimidation with books such as the ones aforementioned - there are thousands of books that are not intimidating, and reading is definitely a growing experience. You shouldn't read War and Peace if you're not ready for it. These types of books are books that need to be read and reread every decade (or sooner), because the more you grow as a person, the more you get out of the book. I've attempted to read Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company twice, and both times couldn't get past the first few chapters. I guess I just wasn't ready for it. (It's on my Classics Club list, so we'll see how Take Three goes!)
|My huge tome of Les Miserables|
And what's all this talk about long books being intimidating? Are you intimidated by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? No? So why should Les Miserables, which is only a couple hundred pages longer, intimidate you? Dive in!
So I suppose that my final opinion on abridged books is: they ultimately don't matter. You, as the reader, get to decide which parts of the books to read - and which parts to skim, or even skip completely! Come back in a few years and see if you are mentally ready to finally tackle those skipped parts.
So go read that thousand page book that you've had on your list for ages but have been too intimidated by. You don't have to read every single word to get something out of a classic. Read what you are ready for, and then reread, and reread, and reread, every so often. Classics have layers of meaning that can only be excavated by numerous readings.
You are your own abridger.
What is your opinion on abridged books? Let me know in the comments!