WHEN I WAS in the third or fourth grade, I made an unexpected announcement to my class: I had read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—and I’d done so the previous afternoon after getting home from school. You might be thinking, Well, that’s no small achievement for an 8-year-old. And you’d be correct. However, what my precocious younger self neglected to tell my schoolmates, teachers, anyone in earshot, was that I’d read the Great Illustrated Classics version.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the series: Great Illustrated Classics were, true to their name, illustrated versions of great literary classics. They were also heavily abridged, with oversized font. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I found a second-hand copy of Melville’s unabridged work, that I realized there were a few notable differences: Although the broad-strokes narrative bones of the story were intact in the illustrated version, the fits of obsessions and madness still in play, I was surprised to find that in the unabridged version, there was considerably more exposition about whales and whaling. It was also, as I remember it, the weight of a cinder block, and to my 10-year-old eyes, all but unreadable.
The reason I’ve been thinking about Moby Dick of late is this: For much of the past year, as we’ve published these digital versions of the magazine, there’ve been a few stories that we’ve run that seemed … abridged. Although our coverage cleaved close to the hearts of those stories, it often felt as if more space was needed to bring them to life (I’m thinking here of our piece on the guy who built his home in a Titan II missile silo in Faulkner County—to whom we allotted a one-page Q&A). And while this shorter-form work fits with the digital- and web-focused format, there were moments when it just seemed like we weren’t doing justice to what the subject had to say. It felt like we weren’t telling the whole story.
So, in this ongoing experiment that is our digital edition, we’ve decided to try something new: Although we’ve done our due diligence as editors and curators of Arkansas-centric material (I promise you won’t find any deep dives into whaling history), we’ve been more selective with the stories we’ve included, and we’ve devoted more space to them. It’s my hope that you’ll find something great, something illustrative, something classic—and something that truly resonates.