Archive of September 2009

Sat 19 Sep

When the edition REALLY matters...

Over my holidays I took quite a few books with me, the majority on my ereader and two in paperback format.  I finished one of the paperbacks and found, as usual, that I was not going to get much further with Proust on my ereader!  Since the other paperback was not so appealing it was really nice that my uncle lent me a copy of "The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner" by James Hogg.  I'm still reading this, but it is the main subject of the posting.

Before I start though let me just say a little about the book I finished reading.  There would have been an earlier post for this, but i was on holiday from being online as well as from London!  I had been under the impression that I was reading a first novel when i started "The Savage Garden" by Mark Mills but at book group I learned this was his second novel.  It did not really show as such to me.  I found it gauche and the inclusion of gratuitous and vaguely salacious sex scenes did not improve matters.  A contrived plot sees a young graduate in Tuscany, where he shows us how attractive and modest he is when the local women seem to flock around him and swoon.  Methinks the author is playing with his own identification with the main chracter.  The writing is equallty inept in the florid use of analogies and similies - as one member of the reading group pointed out, describing the touch of a woman's thigh as "dough like" is not really a fabulous idea from the female point of view!  It did however work as a piece of holiday reading, one can flip through and get it read fast enough without troubling oneself that life is too short to read such things.  Think of it as reading pap to relax from more enjoyable and worthwhile reading.

When it comes to the subject of my posting though, I need to turn to the first book I mentioned above.  As you can clearly see from Wikipedia the author is a truly remarkable man!  I cannot quite believe that he started out in life as a shepherd and only in adult life became a more or less self educated author.  More than that, he managed to write a work that has come to feature as a classic work with a particular appeal as being of great historical interest.  It is entirely possible that this may attract a contemporary audience, if it is true that Ian Rankin is collaborating on a screenplay as my uncle tells me.

I cannot complete my opinions of the work yet, given that I am still reading it, but already I know that it appeals to me on two levels, both as a novel in it's own right and as a work of great historical interest.  Perhaps it could be compared with something like "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins as an exciting read.  Of course the Wilkie Collins work has been adapted for stage and it appears Hoggs may make it to screen, one of the reasons the comparison sprang to mind.  If I have the time and given that I was on holiday in Edinburgh the work also appeals to me as a historical sourse informing me about Scottish History and the reformation.

There is yet one more level on which I enjoy the work though!  It deals with the idea that a person can act in the name of Religion and perpetrate acts which are anything but religious.  In this case Fratricide, marital rap, and more all feature!  But the character believes he is acting in accord with "God's will" and this absolves him of personal moral responsibility.  Could this arguement not equally be applied in modern times as one we need to consider in facing the challenge of terrorism and so forth?

But to come back to the title subject - please consider this edition of the work, from Edinburgh University Press if you have any plans to buy it.  Although the original text is standard (and readily available online and in numerous paper editions) a good deal of the pleasure in this work is the considerable body of historical notes and research around the book and it's author.  Incidentally there is a preview of the work at Google Books and the link above takes you there..

This is not the only reason to get a particular edition, there remain one or two more.  Perhaps the cover picture can be extremely annoying or misleading.  If you are bothered by such trivia then it can be a reason!  On the other hand I have another work (James Joyce's Ullyses) where I expressly chose the edition I bought because it actually has a different text, one agreed as authentic after considerable study.

So these are the reasons I think the choice of an edition of a work really matters!  I wonder what YOU think?  Feel free to add comments!