You will have to excuse me if occasionally there is a gap in posts. My health is not of the best and sometimes I’m just not up to the necessary concentration span needed to gather my thoughts, let alone sit and write them down. In the past I have let this stop me blogging. This time I am just going to pick up again when I feel I can. So following this gap, a post about gaps of a different sort, the gaps caused by abridgement.
When sitting and reading becomes too difficult I curl up I a chair, put on an audio book and let someone read to me. As a child, I loved being read to, so much so that for years I pretended I couldn’t read just so that my parents would continue with the nightly bedtime story. This really worried my teachers who thought that I was completely illiterate. All I can say is that they should have found something a bit more enticing than
Here is Peter. Here is Jane. Here is Pat the dog. I like Peter. I like Jane. I like Pat the dog.
to tempt me with. If they thought I was going to waste good playing time on that rubbish, they had another think coming!
Once I let on that I really was ‘an independent reader’ the time spent listening to others read diminished and that sort of shared experience of literature didn’t come back into my life until I started teaching myself and, despite what the government and the timetable said, read to my class for the last twenty minutes or so of every day, a time we all looked forward to with relish.
But, twenty years ago, I moved into the world of University teaching where the opportunities for reading aloud at length were very few and so it has only been during these last two or three years that I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of taking in a story aurally. It started with the wonderful Stephen Fry CDs of the Harry Potter books which, if you have to spend a prolonged period in bed at any time, I heartily recommend. They are especially useful if you already know the books as well as I do because it doesn’t matter if you fall asleep for a bit. You just pick up again when you wake up. However, not all audio books survive the gaps of a different sort, the gaps caused by deliberate abridgement.
Whenever I set out to buy a new audio book the first thing I do is set the filter to unabridged only. I know that there are some really skilful abridgements out there. The BBC’s Radio 4 would be lost without them and many of them I enjoy. But what those versions do is draw me back to the original work so that I can read all of it. If a fine writer has chosen to put 90,000 good words down in the right order, then I want to read or listen, as the case may be, to all 90,000 of them, not just a selected few. So, when I choose to come to a book first time through the medial of the audio book then I want the whole thing, please, not someone else’s idea of which are the important bits.
Of course, abridgements and alterations come in all shapes and sizes. Dramatising a work, be it for the stage or screen, is another matter entirely. My first encounter with Pride and Prejudice was as a stage play at our local Rep. Clearly money with which to pay the cast had been an issue because Mr and Mrs Bennet were the proud parents of just three daughters, Jane, Elizabeth and Lydia. Consequently, when I came to read the book for ‘O’levels a year later I was horrified to discover that Jane Austen had got it so totally wrong. Had nobody told her that the Bennets had but three children? How could she be so mistaken. I’m afraid decades of re-reading have still failed to reconcile me completely to Mary and Kitty.
So, how do others feel about abridgements and if you like them can you recommend any audio abridgements that you think I might enjoy. I’m always wiling to be proved wrong.