Back when I was more likely to assign classic literature to my students, I was working in a course that included Moby Dick. Many of the students found the novel overwhelming, and they would ask me how they could be expected to read it all.
I was reminded of this when I read a story about "Compact Editions" from Orion Books. The concept is to edit out 30-40% of classic novels to bring them down to a manageable 400-page length. Lots of people are pissed about this, of course. It's nothing new … I can remember abridged versions of classics when I was a kid, and Reader's Digest used to abridge non-classic texts (they may still do this, for all I know).
I don't have an opinion about this, beyond suggesting that folks read the originals. But I should probably confess the advice I gave to those Melville-impaired students back in the day. I would tell them that if they could give me a good explanation for why Melville included all those detailed descriptions of whaling life, they could skip the rest of those chapters. But first I had to hear their explanations.
I didn't hear back from any of them. I suspect they just quit reading and bought the Cliff's Notes.
Meanwhile, BET continues to butcher The Wire via their cuts and censoring. There are some unverified rumors that Season Two, which dealt in part with dock workers and which had more white cast members than other seasons, has been treated with particular disdain … while Season One episodes were shown full-length (if censored), Season Two episodes are being squished into 60-minute time slots with commercials, and some think the first things to get deleted are storylines about the dock workers.