“An Unabridged Sort of Guy”

From Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas:

Abridged or unabridged? That is the question.

Harry stands in the deserted, brightly lit Fiction & Literature section of his favorite chain bookstore, weighing a book in each hand. In his right, The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin, unabridged) weighing in at a formidable 1,276 pages. In this left, The Count of Monte Cristo (Puffin Classics, abridged) tipping the scales at a svelte 396 pages. Harry weights the pros and cons of each, literally as well as figuratively.

He can’t deny that an irresistible bit of cachet comes with being an unabridged sort of guy. If depth follows effort, as Harry is reasonably convinced that it must, surely his best hope for a Dantes-esque rebirth must be found in these pages.

But Harry also knows himself, knows the limits of his attention span, and fears that The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin, unabridged) is fated to end up as little more than an impressive desk ornament. And, he reasons, if the story can effectively be whittled down to a mere 396 pages (Puffin Classics, abridged), then how necessary can the rest really be? (92-3)

Harry Revised
is one of the contenders in The Morning News Tournament of Books. It has some impressive contortions in chronology, and can be quite funny, as I found the above passage, but it walks the thin line between humor and cringe-worthy pathos that can sometimes make for an uncomfortable read. I’ll keep reading to see if Harry can come of middle-age and pull off a Dantes-esque rebirth.

4 Responses to ““An Unabridged Sort of Guy””

  1. Amy Says:

    I’m kind of underwhelmed with the choices this year. There are several I’m just not that interested in reading, and some have gotten decidedly mixed reviews. I read The White Tiger and really didn’t like that. I’m enjoying the Jhumpa Lahiri, though.

  2. Steph Says:

    I managed to snag The White Tiger from the school library, and might possibly start reading that when I’m done with my current book (not a ToB entrant), but by and large I agree with Amy’s sentiments (though not with the enjoying the Lahiri. I did for the first maybe two stories, and then I felt like I was caught in a time loop where the exact same plot was rubbed in my face and I became really resentful).

    I hope Harry is able to turn it out for you! The reviews I read over at GoodReads were very divided on this one, so I’m very interested to know your opinion of it.

  3. girldetective Says:

    Harry did indeed pull it out, and Sarvas impressed me mightily with how he did it. I can’t say I think Harry will likely win the rooster, but I’m glad I read it, even if it is such an accomplished first novel that it makes me despair of ever getting one published myself.

    Three down (My Revolutions, City of Refuge, Harry, Revised), nine I hope to read (2666, netherland, white tiger, unaccustomed earth, shadow country [SO HUGE], disreputable history of frankie landau banks, lazarus project, a mercy and home. Unlikely I’ll be able to finish all by 3/31), and four I’ll definitely skip (steering toward rock, partisan’s daughter, northern clemency, and dart league king.)

  4. girldetective Says:

    I’ve heard mostly good things about the Lahiri. I noticed that there wasn’t much crossover in the books I thought I wanted to read from last year and this list, but I have enjoyed and thought worthwhile the three I’ve read thus far. Next: Home.