on 11 December 2012
Like an earlier review, this one relates to the quality of the Kindle edition of this book. While the issue regarding `hyperlinks to the endnotes' (noted by the earlier reviewer) appears to have been resolved, there is a fundamental problem regarding the formatting of the text: as whole lines are either partially obscured at the bottom of the page, or they have only their top half visible (often only the masts of `h''s and `l''s of the bottom line are visible), so that effectively we have a supposedly excellent text ruined by sloppy, incompetent formatting.
The issue of poor transformation of literary texts to Kindle formats is a common one, which is particularly evident with poetic texts:
A common problem is one in which the text of a poem is inset from the left margin by well over a centimetre (or more, dependant on the font setting - given that the Kindle screen is only 6 inches in diameter, any loss of screen space is going to compromise the reading experience), leaving often a large part of one half of the Kindle screen blank. This ensures that a line of poetry is then spread over several lines, disrupting the appreciation of the verse, and making the reading experience extremely unpleasant.
This is particularly evident in the Penguin Kindle edition of `Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene,' an expensive Kindle book, which, while it is sold as a Kindle product is actually (as I was informed by an Amazon operative) formatted for Computer screens and I Pads.
The Penguin Kindle edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is formatted in a similarly clumsy manner, and makes just as unpleasant a reading experience.
More often than not, it appears that the Cheapest or Free Kindle editions, are better formatted and much more readable than the more expensive editions - this is certainly the case with Kindle editions of Chaucer and Spenser.
Surely if Amazon is marketing a product as available on Kindle, it should be formatted to be read correctly on that device; particularly given the cost of both the Kindle device and the book.
If both publishers and Amazon wish to see literary texts such as these translated to Kindle, then they should have more than a basic grasp of the technological issues at stake and ensure maximum quality and accuracy of content. Otherwise Amazon's boast, that they wish to see every book made available on Kindle, is an empty one, in which quantity is given precedence over quality.
Some other Amazon Kindle texts with formatting issues:
Penguin Kindle: Spenser, The Faerie Queene (not formatted properly for Kindle)
Oxford World Classics Kindle: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Serious formatting errors)
Penguin Kindle: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (not formatted properly for Kindle)
Penguin Kindle: Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (some of the hyperlinks don't work)
Penguin Kindle: Joyce, Ulysses (riddled with embarrassing textual errors; the Kindle text has subsequently disappeared from Amazon listings - I wonder why!)
Middle English is a diverse collection of different dialects and styles, when it comes to literature. At the same time that Chaucer was writing in the southeast of England, with good command of French and Italian poetic sensibilities, there was a strong tradition in the north and west country of alliterative poetry, the kind that owed as much to the Old English forms of verse and use of language as to the new influences post-Norman Conquest-wise. Among the products of this time and place, the anonymously composed 'Sir Gawain and Green Knight' is one of the most outstanding.
This poem has all the hallmarks of being a work of many influences - it has the heroic aspects that one might expect from Old English epics such as Beowulf; it has a decided romantic streak reminiscent of French and Norman influences; it has virtue and church/Christian overlaying influences that come from Latin and ecclesial sources; it has magical and mystical ideas that are most likely Celtic in origin. Perhaps more like a tapestry, the various strands of influence are woven together into a glorious pattern that stands as a towerig achievement of the synthesis of language that Middle English achieved between its Germanic and Latinate streams.
Gawain's story is a very popular one. The most virtuous of the Round Table knights, his bravery and his resourcefulness at seeking the Green Knight, the annual challenger at the court of Arthur, is legendary. Gawain's small fault (and indeed, Gawain was portrayed as a virtuous human, but human nonetheless) warrants a very small penalty, but he is deemed upon reporting back to Camelot that he has brought honour upon the whole fellowship of knights. There is something magical about the Green Knight, however, and this can be seen as metaphor for the way in which temptation seems to have a magical power over humanity.
This is a good study edition, with a good translation and good notes for the student and scholar to follow.