Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2 Bizee 2 Rede Teh Classix?

Adam Gopnik has a thing in last week's New Yorker on adding and subtracting stuff from works of art. (It's not online; the "abstract" is here).

The beginning part has to do with literary classics, and it has to do with subtraction. Evidently, some unnamed British company is putting out shortened versions of the classics -- books like Anna Karinina, Vanity Fair, Moby Dick. (Unnamed by me, that is).

Gopnik goes on to say some reasonable things, like part of what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece is its crazier qualities, which just don't come out in a shortened edited version. He gives some examples.

He doesn't mention, though, the total fakery of the premise these guys are offering. The ad copy will make you want to vomit: "The great classics contain passionate romance, thrilling adventure, arresting characters, and unforgettable scenes and situations. But finding time to read them can be a problem."

Uh, hello? Did these guys take a logic class? Obviously if you have time to read a version of Moby Dick that is half as long, you have time to read the whole thing. . . it will just take twice as long.

So obviously there's some shenanigans. And a moment's thought reveals the truth: the target is people who have the time to read but not the patience. I guess it just sounds nicer to say, "I don't have the time." Though I don't know who they're trying not to offend. It's not like Melville's going to be moping around about the comments he gets on his blog or whatever.

But it seems to me they should be more honest and up front about it, because the potential target audience of people who have no patience is truly enormous.

I was at the gym yesterday and I was watching Much Music (which is Canadian MTV; don't get me started). They had a countdown of the greatest videos of all time. I was watching the end. Number three was "Weapon of Choice" with Chistopher Walken. Number two was "Thriller." Number one was Johnny Cash's "Hurt."

The commenters went on and on about Cash's video and how moving and real it was. But they never actually showed it. In fact, they didn't show any videos. They just showed clips, little pieces, interpersed with discussion. I know it's old news that MTV doesn't play any videos, but this was, like, a whole show about videos! With a number one video of all time! And they couldn't show it!

I guess videos, which used to be the symbol of a generation with a short-attention span, are now, you know, "Who has the time? Who has the patience for that?"


Captain Colossal said...

The video thing drives me absolutely nuts. I mean, I like to read about the books I love and think about them, but videos are about five minutes long. And it's not like the video commentators say anything particularly revolutionary or insightful, as far as I've seen. I did used to like Pop Up Video, though, which both showed the video and gave information.

I would like to state for the record that nobody declared today Adam Gopnik Day at Commonwealth & Commonwealth. It just happened.

Captain Colossal said...

It also strikes me as typically Canadian that they would deem a slow moving melancholy video featuring a bona fide cultural icon and his bona fide cultural icon wife the number one video of all time.

Noko Marie said...

The video commentators, indeed, are frequently not up to the job. I never saw Pop Up Video, but your comment reminded me that "Beavis and Butthead" also always showed videos in their entirety. I always loved "Beavis," and I knew at the time it was genius, but I never expected in a million years that it would seem quaintly "respectful" in 2007.

It is definitely Canadian to choose "Hurt." I feel compelled to admit, though, that I have no idea whether the show was Canadian, and the odds are that it was not since "Much" gets lots of content from MTV.

Some quick Googling reveals that an industry insider survey in 2005 ranked the top videos in the same order I'm describing.

So the presentation is Canadian after all in being a little, you know, late.

Here's a news story about it for anyone as eager to waste time as I am: link.