Today I was looking through some of my older books that I haven’t seen in a while. I was amazed by the piles of Illustrated Classics that I found. For those of you who were not blessed enough to grow up in the 90’s, Illustrated Classics took world-renowned and well-loved literature and fit them into a couple hundred pages with pictures on every other page that presented an image to the pre-pubescent reader.
I found my old copy of Gulliver’s Travels, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Invisible Man, Oliver Twist, and ten or fifteen more. Before opening up War of the Worlds, I remembered back to the countless times that I had read the book in the past, and I wondered how such a story could have captivated my young mind. Then I opened it up.
Every other page was an explosion with the main character running away from a massive evil robot machine! The opposite page from these pictures was the same story that I knew and loved written at a second grade reading level. So instead of the story revealing the gruesome details of how the martians sucked the bodily fluids out of their victims, sentence structure was broken into single phrases like, “Wells ran away.” “The machines attacked!” “There was a blast!” “He was worried.”
If the Illustrated Classics writing in War of the Worlds was lacking, The Picture of Dorian Gray was a disgrace. Oscar Wilde’s single novel is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It utilized precise satire and a cynical approach to the customs of the day while presenting a dark moral tale of the dangers of narcissism and entitlement. In the original book Oscar Wilde utilizes a good 50-60 pages for the sole purpose of inserting sarcastic Victorian humor that is still quite funny today. In the IC version, 30 pages are devoted to a clumsy attempt at making the same jokes while omitting sexual inuendos, political humor, and references to the time period. …Which was what Oscar Wilde’s jokes revolved around.
The worst part is that, for a third grader, the whole point of the story is too complex to fully comprehend. The reaction is along these lines:
“Boy, that was creepy I guess, but that PG-13 movie I snuck into last week was scarier. …I guess it’s time to go eat some Elmer’s glue…”
On the plus side, Illustrated Classics did give the 90’s kids the last chance to start a literate trend. It seems it didn’t really catch on so now I write because I’ve forgotten how to read.
…Next semester is gonna suck.