Fixing “Moby Dick”

Larry McMurtry, the author of The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove and much else, has had a parallel career as an antiquarian (used) bookseller. He recounts his experiences in Books: a Memoir.

One day, while looking through someone’s extensive personal library, McMurtry came upon a copy of Moby Dick. It had belonged to an English author named Charles Reade, who once had an assignment to edit Moby Dick for English readers, making it shorter and easier to sell. The copy that McMurtry found contained a number of proposed edits. In McMurtry’s words:

“Charles Reade was not a man to be intimidated by a mere American classic. He began his editorial work by drawing a bold line through ‘Call me Ishmael'”.

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