Super-Condensed Classics

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Who hasn’t had the experience of plodding through a “classic” novel, longing for some action? New Super-Condensed Classics preserve the excitement of well-known stories without all the filler — the substance of literature without the starch. The result is an exciting short story that’s the perfect length for today’s busy reader to digest!

*****

Jane Eyre

(based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë)

“Oh, sir!” I heard myself exclaim, with controlled but undeniable passion. “I am so plain!” He seemed not to hear me, so fierce was his concentration as he violently unlaced my bodice. I tried to remember his name — we had been introduced moments ago, just before he shooed the housekeeper and my young charge from the study and bounded up the great staircase to his bedroom, with me in his arms. Edgar? Mr. Robinson? My mind was a blank. “Jane, Jane!” he cried, like a wounded animal. He knew my name; that much was clear.

He was rough and passionate, and perhaps to another woman he might have seemed ugly, but so intoxicated was I by his presence that I scarcely noticed that the bed was on fire — literally aflame — until my employer’s shirtsleeves caught fire as well. “Oh, sir!” I exclaimed again, and suddenly he was tearing about the bedchamber, calling for water. I heard someone cackling in the hallway, and for a moment I was transported back to my childhood, with its scenes of cruel torment and red furniture. Meanwhile, my secret lover was plunging his immolated head into the washbasin in the corner of the room.

“Is that marriage?” he demanded rhetorically, his voice garbled by the water in the basin. “To be yoked to a creature like that madwoman?” He was blind now, but he sensed my presence nearby, and with his good hand he resumed his former occupation of undressing me. Averting my eyes from his disfigured visage, I glanced out the window just in time to see a dark-skinned woman with wild hair falling past it to her death. “Bertha!” my partner shouted, and I knew he had begun to regain the sight in one of his eyes. “I shall never leave your side,” I whispered passionately. “Jane, Jane!” he whispered back. Reader, I still could not remember his name.

*****

Moby-Dick

(based on the novel by Herman Melville)

“Ishmael!” Queequeg called me on the intercom, shouting to be heard over the roar of the engines. “Remind me — why are we chasing this whale again?”

I scanned the water below for our target — the giant, immaculate killer who feasted on men’s limbs — and tightened my grip on the tail gun. I could hear Ahab cursing in the cockpit, and I knew that he, too, was scanning the ocean with an almost religious fervor. I wondered if there might be something literally religious about all this, but I could barely hear myself think over the engine’s noise. “Interesting how the whale is white, isn’t it?” I shouted to Queequeg. “I can’t understand you,” he yelled back.

Just as I was wondering why I had ever enlisted in the first place, Ahab suddenly screamed, “There!” and I saw the nose of his plane jerk violently downwards. Queequeg and I both opened fire on the water that churned below. “Pull up! Pull up!” I shouted to Ahab, wondering why we had consented to let him pilot a jet when he’s so obviously insane. He gave no answer, so I kept shooting, until the water beneath us was dyed with the whale’s blood.

“Did we win or lose?” I shouted to Queequeg over the roar of the ocean surf. “Glug glug,” he answered as he sank beneath the waves. This will all make one hell of a memoir, I thought to myself — and damned if I’m not the only one left to write it.

*****

Fifteen Minutes of Solitude

(based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez)

A few days later, Miguel Juan Ramirez was to remember that afternoon when he waited a quarter of an hour for Rosa to show up. Lunch at the Cafeteria had been her idea — he had tried to talk her out of it, but to no avail; she was a dreamer, and this was where she had decided to eat. The quesadillas were beyond belief, Rosa had said, and she swore that the margaritas were nothing short of magical. So he waited, and watched the clock. Five minutes went by. Six. He thought about sex. Eight. Nine. He wondered, if he were really desperate, would he have sex with his sister? Twelve. Thirteen. What about with Rosa’s mother?

Finally, Rosa was fifteen minutes late, and Miguel decided to call her. Just as he finished dialing, he heard a voice behind him say, “Sorry I was so late.” It was Rosa. Miguel hung up the phone. He was no longer alone.

They had a lovely lunch.

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