Monday, April 25, 2011

Nancy Drew Original and Revised Text Books

The comments to "Will the Real Nancy Drew Step Forward?" prompted me to think about why I like either the original or revised text version of each Nancy Drew book.  I read the revised text books as a child and first read the original text books as an adult.

Generally, my opinion of the original text books is that they are quaint, old fashioned versions of the familiar stories.  I tend to laugh during some parts of the books when I encounter a passage that is particularly old fashioned or backwards.

The original text books are much more descriptive and are written better, but many of my favorite parts from the revised text books are missing, which means that I tend to prefer the revised text books.

For those who prefer the original text books, my comments here are solely my opinion, and I hope I give them in a fashion that is not offensive.  The original text books are good, but I prefer the familiar ones from my childhood.  It is just a matter of perception.

I have not read any of these books in around 10 years, so I have to keep my comments general.

#1 The Secret of the Old Clock

I like the added interaction that Nancy has with the relatives in the revised text.

In the original text, the dialect of the "colored" caretaker, Jeff Tucker, is jarring.  Racial issues aside, the dialect is obnoxious.  Except for a few rare instances in scattered books from other series, I cannot stand the misspelled and difficult to read words that I have to sound out in order to know what was intended by the author.  Sometimes, I can't figure it out.

For those reasons, I prefer the revised text. 

#2 The Hidden Staircase

Nancy stays at the mansion without Helen Corning in the original text.  In the revised text, she is accompanied by Helen.  I like Helen Corning, so I prefer the revised text.

#3 The Bungalow  Mystery

Both texts are very similar and about equally enjoyable.  I tend to prefer the revised text because it has extra events that I remember from reading it as a child.

#4 The Mystery at Lilac Inn

The theft of the diamonds in the original text annoys me.  I much prefer the revised text in which Nancy and Helen stay at Lilac Inn in order to help Emily. 

#5 The Secret at/of Shadow Ranch

I do not like the original text book at all.  The whole business with Martha Frank and Lucy is not interesting to me.  I much prefer the revised text book with the mystery of the treasure that was hidden by Dirk Valentine on Shadow Ranch.

#6 The Secret of Red Gate Farm

Both texts are good and tell exactly the same story.  I like them both about the same.

#7 The Clue in the Diary

I can't remember the specific differences in the texts, but my feelings on this one are the same as Red Gate Farm.

#8 Nancy's Mysterious Letter

Both versions are very similar.  I lean towards the revised text in my preference. 

#9 The Sign of the Twisted Candles

I like the original text a lot, but the trouble is that the revised text has Nancy searching for the secret compartments at great length.  I have always enjoyed that part, so I prefer the revised text.

#10 The Password to Larkspur Lane

Both versions are excellent.

#11 The Clue of the Broken Locket

I cannot stand the utter stupidity of allowing two shallow people who like to party to adopt two young children.  It makes no sense whatsoever.  Therefore, I cannot stand the original text.

The revised text is full of coincidences, but at least it does not annoy me.

#12 The Message in the Hollow Oak

The original text seems like a trip into the Wild Wild West with Nancy Drew.  I remember laughing at one passage in which the criminal stops to admire Nancy's spunk.  Um, okay.

I like the revised text version that features the archaeological dig.

#13 The Mystery of the Ivory Charm

Both versions have some crazy stuff in them, but I recall that the original text book is far crazier.  Therefore, I prefer the revised text.

#14 The Whispering Statue

The ending of the original text book is surreal.  The revised text book is kind of stupid, especially when Nancy and her friends pose behind empty picture frames and the criminals can't tell that what they are seeing are not portraits.  Seriously?  It seems to me that Nancy and her friends would appear to be people sitting behind empty frames.  Do the criminals lack three-dimensional perception?

Despite the flaws, I like the revised text a little better.

#15 The Haunted Bridge

Both texts are good and tell the same story.  I like them about the same.

#16 The Clue of the Tapping Heels

As I recall, parts of the original text are a bit weird.  I prefer the revised text.

#17 The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk

I like the revised text much better.  I love the part where Nancy and her friends search the mysterious trunk and find what is hidden inside.

#18 The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion

These two stories are completely different.  Even though the revised text is kind of stupid, I prefer it.

#19 The Quest of the Missing Map

Both versions are about the same.  I like both of them. 

#20 The Clue in the Jewel Box

As with Missing Map, I like both versions about the same. 

#21 The Secret in the Old Attic

I dislike both versions, due to not having read this one as a child.

#22 The Clue in the Crumbling Wall

This book is one of my favorites.  I prefer the revised text.

#23 The Mystery of the Tolling Bell

I dislike both versions due to a reason similar to the one for Old Attic

#24 Old Album through #34 Hidden Window

Beginning with #24, the differences in the original and revised texts are minimal enough that it makes little difference which version is read.  For the majority of these books, I prefer the original text because just about all of the text is exactly the same, yet the original text is fleshed out better.

There you have it.  What are your thoughts?


stratomiker said...

Having grown up with the originals, I don't like any of the revised G&D text books. I think they are badly written, lack any character development at all, and are filled with aimless action, back-and-forthing for no real reason other than to have lots of action.

However, some of the UK Collins picture cover books have a British revised text, and the ones I've read are very good. They update and change the American story somewhat, but do not destroy it. One is HOLLOW OAK, and instead of winning a radio prize it becomes TV and it's all very good. It is not a completely different story like the G&D revised.

I used to vacation up in Canada every year when I was a kid at a remote northern lake. Hollow Oak was my favorite Drew. When I got the revised one and saw it had been totally changed and set in, duh... Indiana, well it was quite a letdown.

In most cases, what you read in your formative years is what you'll like best, although I fail to understand why people who don't really like the originals spend vast amounts of money collecting them.


Laura said...

When I read the RT version of Clock, I was trying to decide if Jeff Tucker was "colored" or not. Then when I saw the picture of him and Nancy talking to the police officer/sheriff (been awhile since I've read it), I decided he wasn't.

I feel the same as you, Jennifer, about dialectical spelling in books, I find it extremely difficult to read and sometimes decipher. That's why I hate to read Hagrid's lines in Harry Potter, even though I love Hagrid.

I don't know whether I'd like the orginals or not but I'd still like to read them, just to see how they compare to the revised text.

Jennifer said...

I'd still like to read them, just to see how they compare to the revised text.

That is exactly what led me to collecting the books. I had an original text Velvet Mask as a child, and I was fascinated at the differences between it and the familiar revised text. Years later, I remembered that fascination and off I went!

While I do not prefer the original text books, I find them extremely interesting. I find the differences either interesting or amusing, and I enjoy the original texts for that reason.

Some people collect the original text books because they like them better or read them when young. I collect them more out of historic interest.

stratomiker said...

I lived in an area that was mostly Italian and Jewish when I was a kid, and blacks would come into the neighborhood to work. The ethnic people in the early Drews and Hardys seemed very real to me and the dialects not at all unususal. my grandparents were Italian immigrants and spoke in broken-English, as they used to call it. What's interesting is that all these different dialect-speaking people understood each other quite well.

Mildred Wirt Benson's depiction of the times was pretty much on the mark. Of course, most of us as children did not realize that almost all the ethnic people in the books were being depicted as bad people or stupid or slovenly people - but that was the way of the times, especially in the movies.

Some kids did notice the prejudice. I know a Jewish woman who was very offended by the depiction of the Blairs in Broken Locket (who had changed their names from a Jewsih one). This bothered her as a girl. However, there were some badly depicted Italians in the Hardys, which did not bother me. I was Italian and did know similar Italian thugs from the neighborhood, so it just seemed real.


Jennifer said...

I hesitate to state the following, because no matter how I put it, someone will get offended. So here goes...

In some cases, I actually enjoy the stereotypes. I have always found the way the Chinese speak in these old books to be very funny. My reaction is to the way it comes across to me and has nothing to do with the ethnic group itself. If you think about, all stand-up comedians, for instance, are very offensive. That is just the way humor is and does not necessarily mean that the comedian is racist.

To go on, I just happen to laugh at text like "no can washee." If that makes me bad, so be it. I don't like the other dialects as already stated. Perhaps it is because I find "no can washee" to be easy to understand and don't have to say it aloud in order to understand it.

There is a certain book by Mildred Wirt that has the most amazing Chinese servant. It might be The Clue at Crooked Lane. Of course he speaks in hilarious broken English which is not politically correct. At the same time, he is the most amazing cook and does things his own way. Basically, he has total control of the household, and the people who pay him have to bend to his will. You have to read it to believe it.

To go back to stereotypes in general, I didn't know some of them were even there until I got online in late 1996 and encountered other collectors. When I grew up, I was not exposed to Jewish stereotypes. I did not know that there was a stereotype about them being stingy. That stereotype is still something that I have never personally witnessed, so I don't see it.

But, I do know based on the explanations of others that certain characters in the Nancy Drew books are supposed to be Jewish and do exhibit those stereotypes, like Nathan Gomber, for instance. I don't see it, but I know it is there.

sequesterednooks said...

Because I read mostly revised texts, the only stereotypes I noticed as a child were in the Bobbsey Twins books. The Bobbsey employees Dinah and Sam spoke in dialect all the time. I remember I used to imitate it, until my mom sat down and had a talk with me. Before then I hadn't seen any problems with it.

stratomiker said...

Somebody gave a talk about it at the Drew Conference in Iowa in 1993, explaining the use of the negative stereotypes in the Drews, something like this:

Nancy was an upper middle-class girl who, in those days, lived in all-white neighborhoods. The only ethnics who came into the neighborhoods were those who came to work for the whites. An educated black (Chinese, etc.) teacher or doctor was not likely to be found in white neighborhoods so Nancy would not likely have known any. The ethnic people she'd relate with would most likely be lower class and uneducated.

Of course, Nancy did zip around a lot even back in the thirties and forties and often went into bad neighborhoods, like Dockville, but it was understood that they were only dangerous, not integrated. It was unacceptable in those days for a girl like Nancy to go into black or other ethnic neighborhoods, so she just was not likely to meet 'nice' non-stereotypical ethnic people. Which is why they don't appear in the books.

I grew up when prejudice was still rampant and it was very strong and truly had a grip on people. Even today we see that many Americans just cannot accept the fact that our black president was born an American. To me it is a throwback to the kind of thinking that prevailed when the original text Nancy Drew books were written.


sequesterednooks said...

Also, Broken Locket was one of the few original texts I did read as a child, and to this day it's one of my favorites, OT or RT. Just goes to show that everyone's tastes are different!

atracey said...

I grew up reading Nancys borrowed from friends (I still clearly remember one friend's collection of yellow spine books, so some of them were surely revised texts) or borrowed from the library (which probably had some older ones) so I think I read a mix of original and revised without ever realizing that there had been revisions to the series.

When I went back to revisit the books after college, I was a little confused by some of the books because they were almost nothing like the stories I remembered as a kid. I specifically remembered Moss-Covered Mansion as my favorite so I saved it for last on my reread, only to find it was not at all the book I remembered. Seems I read the original of that one as a kid and I still prefer it.

In general, I prefer the originals because I like the old-fashioned stuff. The dialects are the one exception though, they make me cringe. I always thought it was stupid that they made all black people sound like Mammy from Gone with the Wind even though these books were not set in the South.

One aspect of the revised texts that I generally liked was the updated names. I definitely prefer "Juliana" to "Florianna" or "Martin" to "Mortimer."

Jennifer said...

It was unacceptable in those days for a girl like Nancy to go into black or other ethnic neighborhoods, so she just was not likely to meet 'nice' non-stereotypical ethnic people. Which is why they don't appear in the books.

That is a plausible explanation. Naturally, people who are well-educated and are also from ethnic groups would not be the ones committing the crimes, so Nancy would have little to do with them. At the same time, the books still come across as racist to me since we only see the stereotypes.

One aspect of the revised texts that I generally liked was the updated names. I definitely prefer "Juliana" to "Florianna" or "Martin" to "Mortimer."

I prefer the revised texts of Haunted Bridge and Crumbling Wall for exactly that reason. Otherwise, the original texts are basically the same for those two stories.