Despite buying a hardback edition of Jonathon Franzen’s new book, Freedom, I also forked out for a copy of the ebook to take with me on our tour of the Ironbridge Gorge. The idea was simply to save carrying the heavy hardback but recent news of Harper Collins’ recall of the first 80,000 copies of the U.K. print run has inadvertantly left me with an interesting dilemma.

For those who might have missed the story in The Guardian, ‘the UK edition of a novel dubbed “the book of the century” is based on an early draft manuscript, and contains hundreds of mistakes in spelling, grammar and characterisation…….Franzen told the Guardian that the book, the follow-up to 2001’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Corrections, contained “a couple of hundred differences at the level of word and sentence and fact” as well as “small but significant changes to the characterisations of Jessica and Lalitha” – the daughter and the assistant of one of the novel’s central characters.’

While I could return the incorrectly published ‘next to final draft’ of Franzen’s critically applauded new novel for a copy of the manuscript as the author intended, I do already have one as the ebook is unaffected by this issue. The writer in me is obviously interested in reading the ‘earlier draft’ hardback tree book waiting for me at home, especially as most if not all of the UK reviews have been written in response to reading proof copies of the incorrectly published version. According to The Guardian article, ‘Poet and author Blake Morrison, who in his review of Freedom for the Guardian called Franzen the best chronicler of the American middle classes following John Updike’s death, said he had not spotted any errors. “That’s embarrassing to admit – except that I know from my own experience how when you’re correcting a final draft or page proofs you often make changes that are immensely important to you, even if no one else is likely to spot them,” he said.’

From my own experiences redrafting work, the final draft of any story often sees me changing the structure of key sentences back and forth, slipping verbs in and out and back in again. Indeed that’s how I know a work is complete, when I reach the point that I am changing key features back and forth and back again. At that point it is simply a question of preference rather than what works best.

Which is what interests me about reading the earlier version of Franzen’s novel, to see just what changes he felt were necessary prior to publication. Considering Franzen’s standing in the literary community I reckon I might not be the only one taking a look at this unexpected glimpse into the editing process of one of the most critically acclaimed living writers. Just need to finish the so-excellent-I-hope-it-wins-the-Booker-now-David-Mitchell-is-out-of-the-running In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut and I can sink my teeth into Freedom.

Anyone else out there planning to keep hold of a copy of the recalled hardbacks of Freedom and why?