One of our favourite finds at the Jane Austen News this week has to be the work of the late Australian comedian, John Clarke.
In his posthumously published book, Tinkering: The Complete Book of John Clarke, which was published in Australia on Monday, he has taken a wealth of literary classics and condensed them down to their most-brief forms. This is abridgment for the reader who really does have no time at all. Or, the reader who has read, or is at least familiar with, the novels he has abridged, and can appreciate the farcical nature of his “short” versions.
These are some of his abridged Austens:
Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet (mother obsessed with marrying daughters off, father amusing but not very helpful) dislikes Mr Darcy because he is too proud. She becomes prejudiced against him and even likes one man (Wickham) because he speaks ill of Darcy.
Her life is occupied with sisters Jane, who is calm and loves Bingham, and Lydia, who loves soldiers (Wickham) and who brings family into disrepute (Wickham). Elizabeth inadvertently discovers that Darcy is unbelievably rich. They marry immediately. Mother knew best.
Featuring Anne Elliot (plain, educated, sensitive, wise, family down on luck). Father and spoilt sister go to Bath for society, Anne to another sister (selfish, stupid, married to cheerful farmer). Children get sick, Anne tower of strength. Visited by Captain Wentworth. (Naval man at time of Trafalgar = national hero.) Wentworth and Anne have met before, have loved, and Anne has rejected Wentworth’s proposal of marriage but heart not still. Farmer’s sister falls off seawall and Wentworth realises he’s an idiot about Anne. Hooray!
Beautiful daughter of silly old fool has nothing better to do than manipulate and matchmake in snobbish rural society. Behaves very stupidly and messes up life of Harriet Smith, a harmless woman who should obviously marry local farmer. Eventually marries best friend Mr Knightley, the resonance of whose name she had previously failed to notice. (See Clueless.)
They’re obviously not a substitute for reading the novels themselves, but they’re a bit of fun, and perhaps a good way to remind yourself of the books you’ve read. (“I’m sure I’ve read it…I just can’t remember what it was all about…”)
A few more examples of John Clarke’s work, including 1984 and Moby Dick, can be found here.