« The Year My Life Went Down the Loo -- Katie Maxwell | Main | Jigs & Reels: Stories -- Joanne Harris »

22 February 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I really want to snark about "the catcher" or whatever it's really called. Oh well.

But, in general, I think change is bad. This is somewhere a footnote or addendum could come in handy. Or a hypertext link to the wikipedia entry for "sanitary belt" .

Change (and fire) bad.


I'd be okay with a footnote, or maybe some sort of Author's/Editor's note at the end, maybe. That's a good compromise. (Bet that's the first time anyone's ever said that to you, eh?)

The Keeper. That's the name you're trying to remember.


Yes! The Keeper! Thank you for the name and the visual picture.

And you're right, no one ever thinks I'm good at compromising. I wonder how come?


Change can be bad, as when they digitally erase Russell Hoban's cigarette from his author photo. Change can also be necessary, though. I mean, I was just on a Summer Reading committe for selecting the list of children's books for the New York Public Library. I kept bringing up my favorite books like "Magic By the Lake" and "The Phoenix and the Carpet". Then I had to just as quickly shoot them down. Why? Doggone cannibals. I shot down three of my very own favorite books because of cannibal pictures. And while cannibals can be un-p.c., they're nothing on that chapter in Doctor Doolittle. You know. The one where the black prince will do anything in the entire world to change the color of his skin so that he can marry the white princess. Hand me two copies of Dr. D, one with the black prince chapter and one without and see which one I snap up right quick.

If a book is still good and still viable, why should something like an ancient "catcher" keep it out of the hands of kids who might want to read it? Especially if the author does the change themself (as with Ms. Travers and the chapter in "Mary Poppins")? Not all change is good, granted. Not all change is bad either. I assure you that Judy Blume is very much alive and well and most-certainly updated her own book.


The reason that the Mary Poppins change has always bothered me is that (and this is just the story I heard, so correct me if you know otherwise) P.L. Travers didn't want to change her book. That she was actually pretty mad about it. And that seemed pretty rotten to me. Also, I think that changing the people into animals makes it somehow even more icky that it was to begin with...

Keep in mind, though, that I grew up reading the original version of 'Bad Tuesday' (we must have had an older edition), so I only ran across the changes as an adult, so it was quite a shock.


I recently opened a copy of E. Nesbit's wonderful wonderful story Cockatoucan -a beautifully illustrated version that was published in the early nineties - and found that the entire first section, all about the little girl wishing she were an island savage who could just run into the ocean instead of washing, had been rewritten. Nowhere in the book did it mention that the text had been abridged or changed. I was furious, and would have written a scathing letter if the book hadn't been fifteen years old.

In Are You There God..., though, I think it's okay. Judy Blume wrote the parts with the pad and belt at least partly to explain to girls how it all worked. That portion of her book no longer accomplished that goal, and so it makes sense (to me, anyway) to rewrite it.

Rewriting/editing without the writer's permission is just disgusting.


I'm not sure where I stand on this, but here's a thought: why do we think published books have to be immutable, unchanging forever, but we're completely okay with websites and blogs and such changing each time we visit? (Not just via additions - also going back and changing, deleting old news, etc.) Tolkein got away with changing The Hobbit to match the backstory he wanted for LotR (via dipping into the story itself as a reason). And I'm okay with that. But I'm less okay with things like "young readers editions" of, say, Dragonflight - that take out all the juicy parts - even if they're marked as such. On the other hand, I get very frustrated when I want to look at something I've seen on a website, and go back and it's not there anymore.

Publishing two labeled ("revised", "classic") editions available might be a practical solution.


Despite what my mother says, I think historical revision is lousy. Let the book stand as it is, and do the same thing I do when I revise my blog: an edit marked as such, an afterword, or a footnote. Sanitary belts happened! If we change the book, we lose evidence of such mythological torture devices. It's a quick hop from there to other scarier revisions. Seriously, a footnote! An afterword! Something that gives context to the old and weird while letting it stay old and weird!


As an 11-year-old, I read Are You There God after the days of sanitary belts had passed, but before they had updated the text of the book. I went away from that passage pretty confused. So I think in this particular case, the change serves a good purpose--it isn't as though that part of the story were simply removed, or changed in any substantive way. It's just a matter of getting the word out to the 11-year-olds, who need it.

I agreed that series like "Books for Younger Readers" are retarded. If you can't read Anne of Green Gables yet, then just wait another year. It will still be there, and there are roughly 2.4 billion other books for you to read in the meantime.


And I meant to say: Normally I am a total footnote nerd, believe me, but in a book for an 11-year-old? I just don't know. I wouldn't mind a section in the back that contains the original passage with an explanation, but as a kid I really was NOT interested in having my text annotated for historical purposes.


Although I too dislike the "retellings" of classics, what I was referring to was a special edition of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight that contains about 95% of the original text - with two or three sex scenes changed. Those scenes weren't very graphic in the first place...and besides, sexual politics is a running theme in the Pern books, and taking out some canoodling by F'lar and Lessa (who're married, btw) is a little silly when the base society includes an entire sub-class of the elite who must be bi- or homosexual. Plus, later books in the series are more graphic, so it's kind of a false introduction.

As to edits and Margaret - I edit my blog all the time, and don't usually mark edits as edits. Just goes to show that there're multiple styles of blogging! I remember being confused by the belt thing in Margaret, but I wasn't really reading it for that - what grabbed me was the way it answered a lot of the "softer" questions one doesn't learn in sex ed - like how to tell your mom you want to wear deoderant, and what it's like to shop for a bra for the first time. That stuff is still pretty universal, new technology aside.


I'm not touching the pad/belt/whatever question. But I do want to throw in my two cents on adaptations for younger readers.
I realize I am in the minority, but I'm all for them. Not for the kid who will be able to read the book in a year or two; I agree that that kid should just wait. But there *are* kids who will never be able to read some of the classics in the original format no matter how hard they try. Whether it's because of a learning disability or lack of intelligence or lack of attention span or lack of will. I don't see why we can't adapt some of the great human documents to suit some of those people. Sure, they will lose someting in the adaptation, but they might retain something worth being exposed to, too.


When I read the book, I didn't know what the belt was at first, either. But it didn't take long for me to figure it out -- it's all about reading for context, just like you would with any word you don't understand.

Count me in as someone who is against the rewriting of this book. Yes, when I read the book as a child it helped me figure out things about menstruation. But it helped even with the outdated notion of the belt in place. Why are the publishers/author of the book assuming that kids today are somehow dumber than kids in the past, in that they would NOT be able to figure out what the belt is and how it was used?

Especially since today there's the Internet and therefore no need really to ask your parents any potentially embarrassing questions...


"homeschooled girls who don't get the essential info they need"

I think you would find that most homeschooled girls are much more willing and able to discuss such matters with their mothers and probably could spin you dizzy with how much they know about sex ed. My 7 yr old homeschooled son certainly could.


The homeschooled bit above wasn't meant to make anyone feel defensive. Most of the homeschooled kids I've worked with are very savvy about pretty much everything -- but not all of them. I've talked to some who have been given some downright scary (and dangerous) info about sex. Not all homeschooled girls are given accurate info, just like not all homeschooled girls aren't.


If you don't like the revised version of the book because you think Travers did it against her will, would you also not like the movie just because Travers hated it?
"Although P.L. Travers was never sanguine about having her books turned into a movie, after a number of attempts by Walt Disney to purchase the film rights, she finally relented. This led to the 1964 film Mary Poppins and the accompanying Disney version book. The film won five Academy Awards and in 2006 was rated number six in the American Film Institute’s list of musicals. Nevertheless, P.L. Travers was not happy with it and refused continued requests for rights to make more movies. In fact, when the musical version, which opened in London in 2004 and on Broadway in 2006 was in the works, Travers forbade the hiring of anyone involved in the Disney film. Both productions won awards."


Oddly, the movie doesn't bother me. It's like Kubrick's The Shining: bad adaptation (or, at least, not remotely true to the source material), great movie. I understand why King didn't like the movie, and why Travers didn't, but to me, they're different animals.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Blog powered by Typepad