Viewing the Mona Lisa from La Gioconda’s nose up or stopping the music before Ravel’s “Bolero” reaches its fullest crescendo compares, in my opinion, to reading an abridged book.
Like Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail,” I get “lost in the language” of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Imagine reading an abridged version of that book. There’s a reason such books becomes immortal. So, why take a chainsaw to them?
Katharine Hepburn’s memoir, “Me,” had long graced my bookshelves when a friend gave me an audio copy of the book. Since it is read by the actress herself I gave it a listen, only to find it ended before Miss Hepburn's heartfelt recollections of Spencer Tracy.
Abridged audiobooks are a natural progression from Illustrated Classics comic books, CliffsNotes and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.
I chafe at the omission of skillfully drawn word pictures – none so breathtaking as Mr. Dickens' in my favorite, “Barnaby Rudge.” Take away the ghostly appartition in the burnt castle, the massacre at the roadside tavern or the fire at Newgate Prison, and you might as well read a gum wrapper or a cereal box.
Imagine some book editor whacking away at the psychological impact of a single footprint on a stranded Robinson Crusoe.
I found a comrade in Daniel Defoe’s Preface to “The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe," part two of the trilogy:
“The just application of every incident; the religious and useful inferences drawn from every part are so many testimonies to the good design of making it public and must legitimate all the part that may be called invention or parable in the story.
“The second part, if the editor’s opinion may pass, is, contrary to the usage of second parts, every way as entertaining as the first, contains as strange and surprising incidents and as great a variety of them. Nor is the application less serious or suitable, and doubtless will to the sober or ingenious reader be every way as profitable and diverting, and this makes the abridging of this work as scandalous as it is knavish and ridiculous.
“Seeing, while to shorten the book, that they may seem to reduce the value, they strip it of all those reflections as well religious as moral which are not only the greatest beauties of the work, but are calculated for the infinite advantage of the reader.
“By this, they leave the work naked of its brightest ornaments. And, if they would, at the time, pretend the author has supplied the story out of his invention, they take from it the improvement which alone recommends that invention to wise and good men.
“The injury these men do the proprietor of this work is a practice all honest men abhor, and he believes he may challenge them to show the difference between that and robbing on the highway or breaking open a house. If they can’t show any difference in the crime, they will find it hard to show why there should be any difference in the punishment, and he will answer for it, that nothing shall be wanting on his part to do them justice.”
In addition to pamphlets and poetry, Daniel Defoe wrote some 500 books on every conceivable subject. (My favorite is "Moll Flanders.") A tribute to his writing genius is that no editor has been tempted to clean up his grammar and spelling errors!