Posted by: Aadisht on: April 10, 2012
At the end of March, when year-end despatch pressure was driving me loony, I resorted to retail therapy, and bought the box set of The Princess Diaries. Unfortunately, I asked Flipkart to ship the box to my flat in Chennai, and I’ve been at Kanchi almost incessantly, so I didn’t get to open the box until yesterday. Unfortunately, since I had already paid for the set, it did mean that I had no money with which to buy my mixie. But then it is hard to take a long term view where the Princess Diaries are concerned.
Quick clarification: I had read the first four books in the series back in 2004, when I had a bookshop-cum-lending-library membership in Patiala (I think they had never counted on a reader as voracious as myself and I drove them bankrupt by issuing two books a day). After that, I was in Bangalore for two years, and lost track. In 2007 or 2008, I read up to Book 5 or Book 6 as pirated ebooks that Aisha had scored. And after that, I decided that since the series was coming to an end, I’d just wait for the box set to come out.
Well, the box set came out, and after many months of always having something more important to buy first, I finally got it and started reading it (right from Book 1) last night. And Alamak! It’s terrible!
Well, the diaries themselves are not terrible. They are still as funny as they were when I read them eight years ago. But the editing is awful. This set is the UK edition, published by Pan Macmillan. Unfortunately, it uses the updated, 2007 edition where:
Even if the editing had been good, and the pop culture updations consistent, it would have been lamentable. This is because the original series existed in comic book time: so while the characters aged only a month from one book to the next, the setting they were in aged in real time. This can be exasperating to the literal minded – but is part of the charm of the books, especially if you have one of those perverse (*cough* quizzing *cough*) minds that delights in listing contradictions and anomalies. Besides, as Ford Prefect says: “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” And on a slightly weightier note, as Fraa Jad says: “There is no backwards.”
One other series that used comic book time was Richmal Crompton’s Just William series, where William was always eleven years old, even though he could remember things that he had done three years ago (when he was still eleven years old). This complete changelessness of William, his friends, and surroundings, was in fact made the key plot point of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s comic horror spoof of the William series, Good Omens.
By coincidence, the William series is also published by Macmillan – and they have taken it out of print. So they have mutilated the Princess Diaries, and taken away the William books. Scoundrels!