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?"