16 December 2012

Sunday Salon: Cheating on the classics

Yesterday my 19-year-old daughter was reading a graphic novel adaptation of Great Expectations, and it got me thinking about whether reading an adaptation or an abridged version of a classic novel is cheating. Charles Dickens, much like Shakespeare, is an author whose work is referenced frequently in modern media and it would do a person well to know at least the basic plots of his stories. If I hadn't familiarized myself with the story of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I would not have been able to appreciate Shannon Hale's book Austenland or the ITV miniseries Lost in Austen.

I can hear the book nerds and literature majors screaming now. "The reason to read a classic is to appreciate the author's use of the language!" In a perfect or smaller world, that would be my stance, as well. However, we are no longer living in the days when it was possible to read all the "important" books. Not even the supposed literary experts can agree on a list what the important books are, so I have stopped beating myself up about not having read all the classics. Perhaps I will go back someday and read Austen or Dickens' works in their original form, but reading the adaptations or abridged versions at least gives me a baseline knowledge to work with.

What do you think? Is reading an abridged version of a classic better than never reading it at all? 

CURRENTLY READING:  The book by Baratunde Thurston entitled How to Be Black has been sitting on my bedside table for a little while, and I finally cracked it open yesterday. I'm only about 40 pages in, so I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. I've heard Thurston on various technology podcasts; his style of humor is mildly amusing on the air but seems a bit stale on the page. When he gets more serious and talks about what it was like growing up black in areas that are dominated by whites, I appreciate the book more. Hopefully the tone evens out in the remainder of the book.

I'm also flipping through Eat This, Not That! 2012: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution. I read the 2008 version a while back, so I'm just perusing this one to see what has changed. This book and the others in the series are a good reminder that even when you are making the choice to eat fast food or junk food, you can mitigate the damage by choosing a less-fattening menu item.

UPCOMING: I still have Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection and The Best of Everything sitting on my bedside, but I don't know if I will get to them before they have to go back to the library. I'm really in the mood to read a couple of the quick romances that are on my tablet and my iPhone. Try as I might, I still can't help feeling guilty when I choose easy-to-read books over the ones that I "should" read. 

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