There is a scene at the beginning of the movie Roxanne with Steve Martin where he is walking along and stops to buy a newspaper out of one of those coin operated boxes. He resumes walking while reading the paper then is so appalled by what he’s read that he runs back to the box and pays to put the paper back inside. This is exactly how I felt today. Only as the material in question is an overdue library audiobook, returning it isn’t really going to have the same satisfying effect; although I will have to pay.
Here’s the thing: I abhor abridgements. I want nothing to do with them as part of my literary consumption. Give me all of it, or none of it. When I first started listening to audiobooks, I recognized how prevalent abridged versions were; presumably because a lot of people would rather not listen to 20 hours worth of book. Well, I would. Back when I had time to peruse, I would avoid abridgements like the plague. Most libraries make this easy by slapping a fluorescent label on the spine as a warning, like Mr. Yuk. (I think librarians probably feel the same way I do.)
Now said son has been tamed and my new toddler is safely strapped in a stroller when we go. However, as the toddler hollers “Down! Down! Down!” all the way through the place, I have to move quickly. So fast forward to three kids and a new ‘grab and go’ library experience and what you have is a recipe for disaster. That’s right. I unknowingly picked up an unmarked abridgement. Here’s the real tragedy of the tale: I love the content of the book. So much so I have uncharacteristically been on a crusade telling everyone to go out and read the darned thing.
Well, I was on the phone rambling on about the book to my sister this afternoon and in this fantastic age of technology she goes online to purchase it; probably just to shut me up. Talking her way through the navigation, (I think we can all agree if you are going to web surf while on the phone with someone, it is only polite to give the other caller a play by play so as to make them feel included) she says, “5 hours and 39 minutes. Oh, no wait, that’s the abridged version. Here it is, 17 hours and 48 minutes.” And that’s when the blow struck. I could feel the blood draining from my face. “My God, Leah, I’ve been listening to the ABRIDGEMENT!” Oh the horror.
The faces of the people I recommended the book to flashed before my eyes: my beloved hubs, the Guru, Rocksy. Could this be happening? There was only one option. I needed to immediately listen to the REAL book and make sure it was just as interesting un-Readers’ Digested. My sister bought the book as we were talking and because of the power of the internet, and the sharing of sisters, I was able to have the book instantly. I started listening with fervor. Exoneration. Not surprisingly, the actual book: even better. Shew, thank goodness. Crisis averted.
Now I have since composed all kinds of nasty letters in my head to the library for allowing such an abomination of literature to go unmarked, but I don’t want my card revoked. Plus the library ladies have enough to put up with when my family walks through the door. What’s done is done. Bygones and all that. Library lesson learned: Sometimes free comes at a price. Which is ironically the same lesson learned from the pedometer fiasco.
By the way, the book: A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I am ashamed to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of both versions. But my recommendation is firmly for the unabridged (unadulterated/undefiled) one.