Wednesday reading — textual variations

What I've been reading

I listened to Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, which won an Odyssey Honor for best audiobook. It is, indeed, very well read by the author, who is obviously also a huge theatre geek. I realized early on that it was actually a sequel to another book, which I hadn't read, but this was last week when I had been ambushed by a cold that was as debilitating as it was sudden, so I spent all day lying in bed alternately sleeping and listening to it, so that worked out nicely.

I read Little Women: An Annotated Edition, which was published in 2013 by Harvard University Press. I was distressed, more or less immediately upon opening it, to learn that the text that has been so often reprinted and which I had more or less memorized is not the original, but an edit done in 1880 that removes some of the slang, introduces word choices that were thought more elegant, and occasionally just making huge changes. For example, in the first chapter, describing Marmee, where the version I'm familiar with has "She was not elegantly dressed, but a noble-looking woman," the original is actually "She wasn't a particularly handsome person, but mothers are always lovely to their children," which is chattier and nicer, I think. Or in chapter four, it makes more sense to me when Meg tells Jo that she doesn't choose to be called a "minx", rather than a "wretch". On the other hand, at this late date I find it very difficult to adjust to the Marches referring to their parents as "ma" and "pa" when I am used to them using "mama" and "papa", so this was very upsetting to me.

The annotations are pretty good. They range all the way from references to primary and secondary sources to definitions to explanations of the bleeding obvious. My favorite example of the latter is a note that Beth's "family of invalids" is her dolls. Like, okay, thanks.

I read Better Nate Than Ever, which is the book that came before Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Having accidentally listened to that one first, I already knew what the outcome was going to be, but it was hilarious.

I read This One Summer, which won a Caldecott Honor and a Printz Honor. I was really looking forward to this book, and ended up feeling very mixed about it. The art is stunning, whereas the story is…sort of aggressively slice-of-life? It really attempts to capture "this one summer" in Rose's life, with total disregard for whether she comes across as likeable, learns anything, or gets any resolution. It ends up being something I appreciated aesthetically but didn't enjoy that much.

I read A Void, the translation of Georges Perec's novel which does not contain the letter E and is also all about the absence of the letter E. It's a bit of a slog at first—all that E avoiding sometimes necessitates some crabbed and awkward sentences—but once I got into the swing of it I read nearly the entire thing in one sitting and enjoyed it immensely. In particular, it contains a version of Poe's "The Raven" which is entirely rewritten without the letter E with the correct meter and rhyme scheme which is one of the single most brilliant things I have ever read.

I read Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust, which was a Batchelder Honor book (best translation). It is a very spare and simple graphic novel about a grandmother describing her experiences as a Jew in Vichy France for the first time to her granddaughter.

I read When I Was the Greatest, which won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. My biggest complaint about this book is that the cover features crochet when it is supposed to be knitting.

I read My True Love Gave to Me, twelve holiday-themed YA romance short stories. I really enjoyed Holly Black and Kelly Link's contributions, probably because they both have fairies in them. (Most of the collection is realistic fiction, though.)

What I'm reading now

Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother

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