Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tuesday's Opinions: Abridged Books

It's funny how lately I can't seem to publish a post by Tuesday afternoon.  Maybe I should rethink this and make it "Wednesday's Opinions".  

Well, anyway, this week's opinion is book-themed and it's about a huge pet peeve of mine, and since I encountered it once again a couple of weeks ago, I felt the need to vent.  This week's topic is:

Abridged Books

They're out there.  They're hiding in the shelves, on the web.  They look so innocent, so tempting, but they should be avoided at all costs.  They're abridged books and they're sneaky little pretenders.

I hate audiobooks, can you tell?  They've ruined many a good book for me, and lately it seems that I don't catch that they're abridged until it's too late.

Abridged books are books that have been edited to within an inch of their life, reducing the book to a quarter of it's original size.  It is often argued that abridged reads shorten reading time, or in the case of audiobooks, listening time.  They are supposed to keep the tone and mood of the story, in addition to maintaining the storyline itself.  They're also often cheaper than the originals.

I'm sure there are people out there who prefer abridged book, but I am certainly not one of them.  When it comes to fiction, I always prefer the unabridged version, and so far there are no exceptions to this rule.
I despise abridged novels, with a passion.  I find they are choppy and incomplete, no matter how well they are edited.  Back stories and "superfluous" scenes are usually the first to go when a book gets abridged, but I think those scenes are necessary to the story; they provide more information on the whys and hows of a characters' behavior, so by the end of the story you're not left wondering the point of the whole thing.  With an abridged book, the scenes change abruptly and you suddenly have a new plot event thrown in your face. Like, remember that one character that was mentioned in only one paragraph in the beginning?  Well, yeah, apparently she was in love with the villain and unknowingly gave him important information to use against the heroes--apparently he's a very charismatic villain, whodathunk it?  This, by the way, was what happened in the abridged book I recently finished.
Abridged reads can really ruin a story, but sometimes they're so hard to catch.  When I read Lord Of The Silent two weeks ago, I thought the audiobook just failed to fully download.  It wasn't until I was an hour from finishing that I discovered it wasn't.  I had read the book years back, and I could only vaguely remember the plot, so I didn't catch the deviousness of the editing until it was too late.  Suffice it to say that I got my money back from Audible.
Some months earlier, I listened to I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith.  I had borrowed it from the library, and I checked and double-checked the box to make sure it wasn't abridged (4 CDs, really? It must be abridged!).  But I saw no writing saying it was abridged so I listened to it.  I wasn't enjoying the read (why do people like this book?  I don't get it!), but towards the end I began to suspect the true nature of what I was listening to, so I looked at the miniscule fine print at the bottom of the box.  Sure enough there was the nefarious sentence: "an abridged recording". This book is forever ruined for me, because I didn't like it in the abridged format, and there's uncertainty that I'd like it better as unabridged.

I understand the occasional need for abridged books.  It would make the classics more accessible to kids, and sometimes it's useful for non-fiction reads that have a lot of jargon.  But for the average adult like myself, abridging a fiction novel is unnecessary and negatively affects the book's tone, mood, and continuity.  I never met an abridged read that I actually liked, and I always try to avoid them.  If I discover early on that the book I'm reading is abridged, I will stop reading it (one of those rare instances where I won't finish a novel).  If you have ever wondered if an abridged novel is worth it, I will tell you that, in my opinion, it definitely isn't.  A book deserves to be read in it's original form, no matter the length, and it deserves judgment based on it's original length.  If you didn't like it unabridged, then at least you gave the book a fair chance.  If you didn't like it when it was abridged, then there's a good chance that you were robbed of your ability to like it.  

So here's my word of caution: do not read abridged books!  Check and re-check that the book you're reading isn't abridged (they have to say it somewhere, so keep looking!), and read the whole thing, even if it's a super-long classic by a long-winded author like Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens.  Unabridged is always better.

Happy reading y'all!
-Lisa The Dancing Bookworm

1 comment:

  1. "I understand the occasional need for abridged books. It would make the classics more accessible to kids, and sometimes it's useful for non-fiction reads that have a lot of jargon."

    There is no "occasional need" for abridged fiction except if you're up against it for an English class or something -- let the kids read the classics as they were intended, otherwise it's not making it. I cannot stand dumbed-down and/or condensed versions for "young adults." It's condescending at best and contributes to stupefaction and under-developed attention-spans.

    "...super-long classic by a long-winded author like Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens."

    Boy, you hit the mother-lode of "long-windedness" with those two. They're off-putting with their pages-long paragraphs and paragraph-long sentences..