'The Grape of Wrath' and other abridged novels
Okay, I actually like Moby-Dick in all it’s unwieldy glory, including all the nautical and cetological stuff. So I’d hate to be the editor at Orion Books who’s charged with chopping Melville’s whale of a tale into fishsticks. I couldn’t be ruthless enough to trim that or any of the other literary heavyweights (including Anna Karenina and David Copperfield) into the 40-percent-slimmer editions that Orion is releasing this month. But I did enjoy the New York Times article the other day that solicited the opinions of several well-known authors as to which books could stand to be shorter.
Norman Mailer was unsentimental enough to list three of his own tree-flattening tomes on his should-be-shorter list. EW essayist Stephen King went so far as to write his own hilariously abridged versions of Gone With the Wind, pared down to just four sentences, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which he distilled down to a single tabloid headline. My favorite response, however, came from Jonathan Franzen, who noted that downsized books should have similarly diminished titles, like The Pretty Good Gatsby and Shortmarch. (I guess Franzen’s own magnum opus would become The Correction.)
This article could inspire several questions/party games for us, PopWatchers. Such as: which novels do you think could be slashed? On the other hand, which do you wish were longer? (I vote to fatten up Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.) And finally, what Franzenesque titles would you give these fragmented fictions? I thought of several: Bleak Condominium, A Tale of One City, House of the Six Gables, Naked Snack, Ninety-Seven Years of Solitude, and of course, Finite Jest. Your turn…