reading the REAL book

In my last year of high school, we were assigned Huckleberry Finn to read.

What luck! I thought. My mother read the book to me when I was a wee lad, and I’d read it a dozen times since. This would be the easiest two weeks of Advanced English ever! While everyone else was reading and sweating, I could just kick back and relax. It would be like being quizzed on my own life.

And all went well… at first. But then, one day, everyone in the class was talking about parts of the book I didn’t remember at ALL. I was thrown for a loop and a half, with a twist. Could I have forgotten so much?

So when I get home from school that day, I immediately pull the good old copy of Huck Finn that I’d had since I was a tiny tot down off the shelf and look for the passages referred to in the day’s assignment. And to my astonishment, they just plain weren’t there.

My head was swimming from the sheer surreality of it all. Could there be two books with the same name, equally famous?

As it turns out, of course, yes there could be. Kind of. Because when, in searching for answers, I looked on the front cover, for the first time in my life I noticed the two words which solved the mystery : Children’s Edition.

Turns out, I’d been reading a fairly heavily Bowdlerized version all those years. So with an air of mystery and wonder, I took out the edition I’d been given in school, which I had not even glanced at before, and began reading the REAL book that Mark Twain wrote.

Needless to say, it was a lot darker. I fell in love with the book all over again.

Has anyone else Teeming along here had a similar experience?

Yep. At seventeen in school I played Romeo on stage (no kidding). Had my lines down pat.

When I was assigned to read it in college I figured I had it made. Like you, imagine my shock at learning I had learned, rehearsed, and played a bowdlerized script in high school! Argh!

I never studied Gorky Park because I figured I could hire the movie :smack:

If you read Charles and Mary Lamb’s versions of Shakespeare’s plays before seeing the originals, you’d be in for some big surprises.

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

Richard Wright’s Native Son. The original was really cleaned up, particularly the scene in the movie theater. Apparently chopping a white girl’s head off is fine and dandy, but jerking off to a movie of her isn’t.

Little Women! I read it cover to cover and didn’t come across certain major events that I had always heard associated with the book. I gave it to my sister who had recommended it in the first place and she was shockde to find out the the book I had contained only HALF of the actual novel. It just stopped partway through. It’s not like pages were missing or anything, just someone had picked what they thought was a good ending and cut the rest out. It wasn’t labelled as such so I wrote to the publisher and they sent me another copy of the real thing. It was weird.

You mean Beth didn’t die in your book?

Do you mean the second part, “Good Wives,” wasn’t included?

Similar to Jonathan Chance, I was in a production of Hamlet when I was a pre-teen. Only played a guard, but by the time it was all said and done, I had pretty much everyone’s lines memorized.

I didn’t do so well on the test my senior year of high school.

My parents subscribed to the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books series. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of pleasant hours with those books, and only years later fully understood what they meant by “condensed”.

For me it was Count of Monte Cristo. I’d always loved the story and decided to read the actual book.

Suffice to say I did not notice the “Abridged” notation on the Penguin Classics. Introducing the Cavalcanti plot then skipping to what happened afterward was confusing in the extreme.

I’ve since read the complete book in English and struggled through the French. One of the best books ever written, so long as you get the complete story.

From the thread title, I thought you were talking about this Real Book.

For me and my best friend it was Little Women.

Somehow I had two copies, and had read it from both. I don’t remember when I realized that one was different from the other, but it was just a slightly condensed version. Lots of small things were left out of one.

My best friend and I were talking one day, as older teenagers, maybe even college age, and I said something about how cool it was that Tommy Bangs is mentioned at the end setting fire to something. She didn’t remember it and got it out to look for it. Wasn’t in her copy. We started going through and comparing and she had never read the full version of the book! It was always that same condensed one similar to what I’d had when I was younger. They did not say condensed or abridged on them anywhere that we noticed.

I’d bet it would be kind of wonderful to read an old favorite that has new parts! Even if they are small little things.

Part of me wishes I were a high school English teacher these days, simply because of how much fun it would be to teach Beowulf to a bunch of kids who had the recent movie readily accessible. I imagine it’s made spotting the kids who hadn’t actually done the readings just a little bit easier.

I read Les Misérables (I thought) while I was in junior high. It never dawned on me that it could be abridged, I mean, it was around 700-800 pages. Then years later I picked up a different copy, and discovered that there was all this stuff about the Bishop at the beginning that I didn’t remember at all. Huh.

Yeah, it’s hard to find an unabridged Les Mis. Well, maybe hard it overstating it, but most editions are abridged (without the fascinating history of Paris’ sewer system).

This was how I discovered how important an author’s style could be. I read A Christmas Carol in the condensed version as a kid, and years later I read it again, the real one. Found out I had missed out of the whole “dead as a doorknob” discussion, and so much more.

I was reading Pride and Prejudice and wondered what happened to all the Zombies. :wink:

Oh, yes. My favorite book as a kid was Call of the Wild. Of course, the version I had was very abridged and illustrated. One of my first book purchases ever was a Jack London anthology…