The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Will The Real Book Please Stand Up?

Posted by BigWords on July 16, 2009

There are many reasons why I purchase duplicates of books I already own, but three stand out:

  1. My brain is frazzled, and I can’t remember if I have the novel or not. I buy the book anyway, just in case it isn’t in my collection already.
  2. The cover doesn’t seem familiar, so I can’t possibly have bought the book. It isn’t as if the publisher would use new cover art, would they?
  3. It is a new and revised edition, which has scenes edited from the earlier edition, or is heavily rewritten by the author. I have to own a copy…

The first and second reasons may be familiar to other people, but the third reason is harder to pin down. I have heard people say that they absolutely, under any circumstance, WILL NOT go out of their way to pick up a revised and expanded edition of a book they love. It is a gray area which most people steer clear of discussing in polite company, and I have been told to stop bringing up the subject on numerous occasions. The most recent incident happened about a month ago, and I find myself thinking about the topic because of a purchase I made today.

Some background, before I start rehashing the argument in public:

I enjoyed the rewritten version of Demon Seed, despite the already-dated pop-cultural references and because of the already-dated pop-cultural references. I’m not going to claim that it was a classic of its’ genre by any means, though my enjoyment was real. The original and new edition both have a place on my bookshelf.

Stephen King’s The Stand, which received a beautiful new leather-bound edition upon publication (replete with those awesome Bernie Wrightson illustrations), is on my bookshelf. I love the book though the original version, in paperback, is still an essential component of my Stephen King collection. I would never think of favouring one over the other, and they are both equally interesting even if the Complete And Uncut Edition does not stray far from the original text plotwise.

There are also a couple of Philip José Farmer paperbacks which I have deliberately sought out the revised copies of, an updated version of Moorcock’s Lives And Times Of Jerry Cornelius (which had stories that were not in the original) as well as many others.

I like the fact that I can see ‘behind the magic’ by reading both versions of a book, comparing the words used and noting the changes. I tend to see the appearance of new editions of olf favorites much as I would the yearly publication of something like Overstreet – I don’t give a fuck if it is essentially the same book… It’s new and I want it.

Which is where I ought to point out the nature of the argument. It was due to my recommendation of the corrected and reinstated text of a Lovecraft novel in .pdf to a friend. There were a few people present, and I found that the general consensus was not in my favor. The mood of the day seemed to be “It doesn’t matter if it was how the author intended the story because the bastardized version is the one everyone knows.”

I didn’t feel like arguing over the matter, because these pissing contests get really old really quickly, though I probably should have fought a little harder to make a clear point. The pointless arguments are always cropping up, so I’ll have a chance to get my own back once the topic of muzak turns up in conversation. Maybe I’ll pick a fight about something dumb this weekend…

Enough background. On to the point.

My copy of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is falling apart. I have had it since high school, so the poor paperback has seen better days. It is a mess of creases, coffee stains and small tears covering the pages like cobwebs. I’m always afraid that it is going to disintergrate in my hands, so buying a new copy was the simple solution. Only… my plans never go quite to plan. Even the new shed I’m putting in the garden has hit trouble, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the gods are mocking me.

The new copy of The Forever War is a revised edition. Which means that I can’t get rid of the old paperback until I have a better copy. The two books are sitting beside each other on my desk right now, and the new one (crisp cardboard cover, shiny artwork and reinstated segments) is mocking the old copy. I’m slightly peeved that there wasn’t a note on the cover to say “Wait, before you buy this… You ought to know that the words have been changed.”

I’ll look out for a copy of the original text at the weekend, but I have the feeling I’m gonna come home with more books than I really ought to. Publishers ought to take into account the addictive nature of buying books, and take care of those of us who are too eager to purchase their offerings that the simple act of opening the first few pages to check the content is completely alien. Yup, I’m uncontrollable in my spending habits.

There’s a nice copy of The Bourne Identity in the second-hand bookshop at the end of the high street, and I can’t remember if I have it in my collection or not. I’m going to take a better look at it, and this time I’ll check if it is the original text or a revised edition.

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2 Responses to “Will The Real Book Please Stand Up?”

  1. Carol said

    “It doesn’t matter if it was how the author intended the story because the bastardized version is the one everyone knows” I bet these are the same people who think that books “based on the movie” tell the real story.

  2. bigwords88 said

    You haven’t even scratched the surface.

    Imagine a man (A MAN!) who won’t leave the house when Desperate bloody Housewives is on television. I’m surrounded by neanderthals…

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