Abridged

I’m so ashamed.

I thought it was the real thing. I searched for the best version, peering here and there at the descriptions, calculating the amount of time it would take for each chapter to go by, thinking to myself of the number of chapters in the book as a whole. The choice seemed simple: A long time of listening to the Macintosh computer voice read Dickens, or a shorter time of hearing Martin Jarvis read to me, only up to Chapter Eight. I figured that after eight chapters, I could find a continuation and either read or listen from that point on. But I didn’t think to check a chapter list until Charles was off to Paris to see what he could do for his old servant.

This seemed the best of times. It was the worst of times.

For the past few hours I’ve been listening to the ABRIDGED version of “A Tale of Two Cities.” ABRIDGED. Not the first third of the book, but three-fourths of the plot, minus Dickens’ astute observations about humanity, his descriptions, his tangents on relevant or irrelevant subjects.

I have no right to claim knowledge of this novel.

Sure, I know the whole plot now, but it’s tainted, like I stumbled on the Spark Notes or a Version for Young Adults. I already knew there was a knitting villain, a dissolute but ultimately brave anti-hero, a hidden marquis. Now I know enough in Dickens’ own words to not want to read it again for awhile, but I also know that there are gaps in my familiarity with this book.

This frustrates me incredibly. Comically. I would rend my garments and shout to the sky if I could. But, you know, the neighbors would ask questions, and it’s embarrassing to admit that your rage has to do with the edited work of a long-dead author. I mean it’s not like I’m in grad school or something. This isn’t an assignment. This obsession is completely my own.

It’s like realizing the man you think is your royal husband is an identical pauper switched out on you while you weren’t paying attention.

It’s like putting to death an English rake who happens to resemble the actual French aristocrat you mean to condemn.

It is a far, far better thing I do to distract myself with Lady Gaga and the fiction edition of the New Yorker than I have ever done in fixating on my errors for the rest of my week.

 

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