Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are Re-issued Books Outdated?

The answer to that interesting question is, "yes" and "no."  Re-issued books are definitely dated, but are they outdated?  I think, the person who asked this question really meant, "Are books originally published years ago and then released again, outdated?" The answer to that would have to be, no.

Just as film junkies love old movies like, "Gone With The Wind," and "Casablanca," readers in love with certain time periods, subjects, settings and history will appreciate books written in styles that would no longer be picked up as an original novel by a current publisher. From today's perspective, Vivian Leigh's unnatural dramatics might leave a casting director cold, just as the language in Sense and Sensibility might not be pleasure reading for contemporary teenagers. Already, Star Trek, the original, ET and 2001, A Space Odyssey, when lined up beside the computer generated graphics of today are laughable if graphics is what we are comparing. Last of the Mohicans, Huckleberry Finn, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Martian Chronicles with their lengthy narrative, their lack of white space, their omniscient narration would never make the cut with editors who weren't born until after the fall of the Berlin Wall or, for that matter, with children whose attention spans were molded by video games and soundbites.

All of which does not mean that "Gone With The Wind" and Jane Austin should be consigned to time capsules and buried beneath the ground to be resurrected and laughed at by generations born five hundred years from now. There is something to be said for the classics of yesterday.  Pair them with a lonely rainy night, a glass of good red wine or a pot of tea, a bit of buttery shortbread, a blazing fire and a hint of heartbreak and you have all the makings of my idea of what heaven has in store for us.

Are all re-issued books of the caliber of Wuthering Heights? Maybe not. But in this competitive world of publishing where it is easier to win the lottery than to be published by a reputable publishing house, the re-issuing of a previously published novel is a feather in its author's cap.

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