Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Abridged, The Shortened, the Condensed, Part 1

A few decades back, Reader's Digest decided to put out large volumes of condensed works, where they whittled down novels to their barest minimum so that people could still read the classics without having to sit down for hours (days, months) at a time. But how do condensed/shortened/abridged versions compare with the original?

Your job right now is to read a condensed version of a book that you have never read before, but whose full, unabridged, and complete copy is within reach. The objective of this exercise is to get you to see the difference between the condensed and full version of a book, not just in how the story flows, but what apparently editors hold in higher regard. Do editors go for character development but not the actual plot, or do they go for plots and then leave you to find out the characters' lives and motivations?

Your job is to read the condensed version of the book, and, as you are reading, write your thoughts down. In particular, write how the book makes you feel, how it strikes you, and what you are looking for. What are the questions left unanswered? Which characters do you want to see more of? What assumptions should you be making about the characters or the plot? In other words: speculate.

When you are done reading and taking notes, do not write a full review yet. Keep your notes and wait for the next exercise on book reviews. Good luck and happy reading (and speculating)!

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