His epic novels used to be required reading for generations of schoolchildren. But the works of the early 19th century author Sir Walter Scott have recently fallen out of favour, considered too ponderous and wordy for the tastes of modern readers.
Now a Scottish academic is hoping to revive the novelist’s reputation by abridging Ivanhoe, one of his best known books, to make the work less “tedious” for a public raised on JK Rowling and Dan Brown.
Professor David Purdie has spent 18 months cutting the classic – set in 12th century England – from 179,000 words to a more manageable 80,000.
His efforts have also led to a backlash from purists upset that such sacred texts could be altered. One former president of the Scott club has demanded that the edited work is not sold under the author’s name…
Sir Walter, from Scotland, was one of the pioneers of the English language novel. He is generally considered the first ever historical novelist and English language writer to gain international fame.
But after his death in 1832, despite grand monuments built to his memory in Edinburgh and Glasgow, his popularity has waned. By the beginning of the 20th century his books were completely out of fashion, eclipsed by their more “entertaining” former contemporaries such as Jane Austen.
Prof Purdie said that if his new version is successful he could give other Scott books the same treatment…
An excellent way to continue the dumbing down of the whole society.
When I lived in the Navajo Nation I had the biggest argument I ever had on this same topic – in the bookstore of the Navajo College. I was there on a completely unrelated errand – but, I can’t resist dropping in to look around a bookstore anywhere. Then, I discovered there were almost no normal print volumes.
They accepted lousy reading skills as “normal” and mostly sold comic book versions of what was supposed to be literature.