I was pleased to be part of a great online conversation on Saturday, a “Round Table” about L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Emily of New Moon. This is by far my favourite Montgomery novel in terms of artistry and thoughtfulness, a Cinderella book, I think, a sleeping giant of Canadian literary fiction. I think it is nearly a work of artistic genius–all the more so because the rich, layered tale masquerades as simply an accessible coming-of-age tale of a precocious writer. There is such vibrancy in this novel–such a taste of artistic delight, numinous joy, and the harrowing of the pilgrim’s soul–that I cannot emphasize too much how great it can be for invested readers.
- Brenton D.G. Dickieson, “The Megan Follows Audiobook Version of Emily of New Moon“
- E. Holly Pike, “Age Values in Emily of New Moon“
- Kate Sutherland, “Lessons in Law in Emily of New Moon“
I am not the only one to think Emily of New Moon an important novel and rich for conversation. So, on Saturday, I was part of a Round Table discussion with editor extraordinaire Benjamin Lefebvre as moderator. Three of us as “speakers” guided the conversation with an opening thought. Law and literature scholar, Kate Sutherland, considered the ways that morality and social structure were formed and re-formed in the novel. E. Holly Pike, whose co-edited L.M. Montgomery and Gender (with Laura M. Robinson) will be released later this fall by McGill-Queen’s University Press, spoke about “old” and “young” in the novel, using a central image of old and young women and old and young trees to provoke thought.
Both of these conversations left me with so much to think about that I would have been pleased to simply talk about these topics, which struck me as quite connected. I did have a conversation thread as well, however, on a new audiobook adaptation of Emily of New Moon. Megan Follows was, for me, the “voice” of Anne as she starred in the 1980s Kevin Sullivan Anne films. Late this summer, an audiobook production featuring Follows as the reader was released. It is well done as a performance, and I particularly like Megan Follows’ reading of Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novella, Carmilla.
However, what I hadn’t seen in the initial advertisements about the project, was that the audiobook was abridged. And deeply abridged, leaving only about 48.7% of the original content, I estimate (though I don’t have a transcription, to be certain of those numbers). As you might expect, the abridgement comes at some literary and artistic cost, as the narrative emphasis on certain themes, images, and character lines gets shifted. In this abridgement, however, entire chapters–and, indeed, one entire central character–is cut. My conversation was about teasing that problem up and talking about what we lose in the abridgement (including, as I admit after a perceptive question, on a bit that still leaves me puzzled). I am not a book history specialist, so I perhaps fumbled Ben’s question about “what is the abridgement doing?” Later, in our conversational afterglow that isn’t in the video, I did remind us that the abridgement seems like a shaping of us as readers–and a commercial shaping, specifically.
Thanks muchly to Andrea McKenzie for hosting, Ben Lefebvre for moderating the speakers’ dialogue, and Caroline Jones for moderating the chat–all Montgomery scholars and generous with their time and thoughts in this conversation. I had fun and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.
You can now see the entire video on Youtube now:
This event is part of the “Conversations about L.M. Montgomery” series, and came out of the L.M. Montgomery Readathon on Emily of New Moon, which began early this summer. Developing out of a need for pandemic-era connection, and led by Montgomery scholars such as Ben and Andrea, it has developed into a dynamic online reading community. The “Readathon” is now moving into the Emily sequel, Emily Climbs (which began last week). You can join in on Facebook.