Which Version?


$T2eC16dHJH!FFmCFbbkdBRjB)YgfUg~~60_35I was getting ready to buy a new edition of THE NIGHT LAND the other day when an upsetting paragraph caught my attention:

“HiLoBooks’ edition of his novel omits two sections which have until now prevented it from reaching a wider audience: the tale’s romantic prefatory conceit and its lengthy, relatively uneventful denouement. Our otherwise unabridged version begins and ends with the most dramatic moments in this epic tale: chapters Two and Eleven.”

This disturbs me.

I don’t like having my books ‘edited’ for me.  That is, texts that have been altered, cut, reordered or changed from the original published version.  If the author releases a new, “unexpurgated” version, then that is something different.  The author themselves are saying, “This was cut from the original publication” or “I re-wrote parts to make it better”.  That’s the author making those changes and, by and large, I agree with their ability to do so even if I don’t necessarily support it (I’ve never read the “unedited” version of Stephen King’s THE STAND, for example, because the thought of going through all those pages again makes me weary).

But this is something different.  This is an editor, or publisher saying, “we don’t think this part worked so we’re taking it out.”  Well, to me, that’s not their call to make.  The work should stand on it’s own; warts and all.  I want to read the original version the way it first appeared and decide for myself what works and what doesn’t.

THE NIGHT LAND seems to be particularly prone to this hazard.  Due to it’s length and odd style, some editors have chosen to remove whole chapters from the reprints.  Lin Carter did it for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of THE NIGHT LAND (July 1972) which still took up two paperback volumes and it appears that some publishers are still doing it today.

Nor is this Hodgson’s only work to suffer from some of this ‘editing’.

Some reprints of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND remove the first chapter which describes the finding of the manuscript or the author’s introduction.  The removal of either, to me, is a mistake as they provide invaluable context for the story.   Some editions delete the poems “Grief” and “Shoon of the Dead” altogether.

THE GHOST PIRATES has a different problem in that, apparently, it had a different ending originally!  Before the first publication in 1909, Hodgson removed the final chapter and tried, unsuccessfully, to sell it as a short story.  I would consider any edition published today to be incomplete without this extra chapter titled, “The Silent Ship Tells ‘How Jessop Was Picked Up'”.  And, of course, the poem that begins the novel, “The Hell!! Oo!! Shanty”, is sometimes omitted.

Only THE BOATS OF THE “GLEN CARRIG” seem saved from this posthumous editing as I have not seen any variations in the editions.

All of which is a warning to the reader to be careful when they buy lest they end up purchasing an ‘edited’ version by mistake.  Enough time has gone by and there is really no reason for any of Hodgson’s works to not appear complete and unedited.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Which Version?

  1. My copy is from Agypan Press, which makes no claims at all. It neither says it is the complete version nor that it is an abridgement “for the modern reader.” It begins with a poem and ends with Chapter XVII, “The Love Days.”
    Would this be a complete version?

    • eric

      That’s where the Project Gutenberg version begins and ends, so I’m pretty sure that you have the complete version.

  2. Eric

    To their credit, at least this particular publisher was upfront about taking stuff out. Obviously not good, but at least it doesn’t fool some unsuspecting reader into thinking he’s read the whole story, only to discover years later that he hasn’t.

  3. As tedious as the first and final chapters are in The Night Land, I don’t like seeing books cut by anyone but the author. It should be the reader’s choice, not the editor’s.

  4. DanO.

    I agree completely. I much prefer the full versions. The problem is, it’s not always easy to find out if a work is unabridged pre-purchase, especially the more obscure ones. That’s why articles like this one are really useful. Thanks!

    • Thanks! Glad you appreciate it. Makes me think that maybe I need to do a listing of which editions are “un-edited” because you’re absolutely right that you don’t know until you actually get the book. I even had one that I bought and was billed as “reproduced from the original” but omitted a poem and had parts of it out of order!

  5. Foul play, I say. What’s the point of publishing it if that’s how you treat the material, with disrespect. Jerks.

    • Some publishers just look at it as a way to make a quick buck. Grab some public domain book and slap out a new edition. Those are bad enough but when you have a publisher who has the audacity to say, “we cut out those chapters because we didn’t think they worked”, that’s horrendous.

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