I wish I had never heard about Macmillan Readers. Under the guise of teaching people about the English language, they are destroying its great works of literature.
Take, as an example, The Great Gatsby. Macmillan thinks that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words somehow make reading less compelling and destroy one’s ability to appreciate the language. So they have had it rewritten — if you can call it that — by Margaret Tanner.
You can see why. Who would want to read this?
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes–a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an æsthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—-
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
When you can instead, read this marvelous prose:
Gatsby had believed in his dream. He had followed it and nearly made it come true.
Everybody has a dream. And, like Gatsby, we must all follow our dream wherever it takes us.
Some unpleasant people became part of Gatsby’s dream. But he cannot be blamed for that. Gatsby was a success, in the end, wasn’t he?
I would describe myself as “aghast”, but that doesn’t seem to cover it. Re-reading the last few paragraphs by Fitzgerald makes me want to pop over to Amazon and pick up the book right now. Reading the end of Tanner’s rewrite makes me want to buy a gun and go Tanner hunting.
Maybe that’s just me.