I Can Haz Internets!

At least that’s what I like to tell my cable company.  Bunch of wankers.  Internet was off and on all day Monday, fine Tuesday, and now I expect them to come and take a look today, proclaim everything is all set, then it will surely go out again next week.  *sigh*  Needless to say I’m trying really hard to still be on top of everything which, strangely, I think my son’s new sleep schedule will aid me in.  Who thinks I can get Comcast to be just as agreeable as my toddler?

Silly me.  I guess they already are.

Anywho, not overmuch has happened of late.  Got a few posts I’m working on (boy am I behind on writing book reviews), emails are being chiseled away at, while I continue to remain behind on my reading of War and Peace.  So, you win some, you lose some I guess.

There is one bit of news that came to my attention today that I would love to hear some thoughts on from you folks.  Check out the link here and admire a few excerpts.

Twain himself defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Rather than see Twain’s most important work succumb to that fate, Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the “n” word (as well as the “in” word, “Injun”) by replacing it with the word “slave.”

“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

The last paragraph in this excerpt kind of sums it up for me:

“After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and “general readers” that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” he said.

Gribben has no illusions about the new edition’s potential for controversy. “I’m hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified,” he said. “Already, one professor told me that he is very disappointed that I was involved in this.” Indeed, Twain scholar Thomas Wortham, at UCLA, compared Gribben to Thomas Bowdler (who published expurgated versions of Shakespeare for family reading), telling PW that “a book like Professor Gribben has imagined doesn’t challenge children [and their teachers] to ask, ‘Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?’ “

So, folks, what say you?  Do you think it’s ever appropriate to edit a piece of ALREADY PUBLISHED work in order to make it more palatable?  More teachable?  Why?  Under what conditions?  Are there any?

You can probably guess my opinion, but just in case you can’t here it is:  No.  Just.  No.  Editing happens before it gets published, afterward it’s censorship.  People need to stop walking on eggshells and demonstrate true empathy by being willing to teach why the language was as it was.  Sugar coating it doesn’t make it better or disappear, it just means we decided to take the “He Who Must Not Be Named” approach.  Words have meaning, use the ones Twain did to teach.  This, imo, is even worse than that school who decided to pull the school production of To Kill a Mockinbird for the same reason  [don’t know if it ever got put on, but the Board of Education did vote that it could be].




12 responses to “I Can Haz Internets!

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  • Jan

    I’m with you Woman. If literature is a work of art–and it is–it is destructive to change it because it insults your sense of “proper”–sometimes a word needs to be used for the power it has. Teachers should expose their charges to art. Art opens our minds and helps us to feel and recognize change or where it needs to happen. Would this professor cover the Venus de Milo? Ah, perhaps he would have been among those who chopped off penises from classical statuary because male anatomy was “offensive”?

  • laurelrainsnow

    I agree, Kimberly…I think the important lesson here is context. In the context of the times, the language was not inappropriate. We can demonstrate how times have changed and how we have become more sensitive to certain issues.

    A great teachable opportunity, I’d say.

    When I was eight years old, I got my first library card and checked out Tom Sawyer. Yes, my very first book from the library! Soon after, I read Huck Finn. I loved these characters, and in the early 1950s, when I was a kid, the language fit into the context of the society at that time…wrong or right, that’s how it was.

    I’m sorry about your Internet! I ditched Comcast a couple of years ago and signed up with AT&T…I’ve had so much better service from them. They’re quick to respond and I have no complaints about them.

  • Laura Marcella

    I agree with you! I really dislike it when today’s editors alter already published work. I recently found this quote by Mark Twain: “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.” Perfectly said, Mr. Clemens!!!

  • Hart

    We read Huckleberry Finn in high school and I actually thought the classroom discussion about the language used–the times, the meaning ‘today’ (meaning 1982) was really good for all of us as world citizens. I hate to think of them CHANGING that.

    On the other hand, I think I might hate even more that a lot of young people are never exposed because that keeps it out of classrooms. I guess I’d prefer, if there has to be a different version to get it into classrooms, that it has a lengthy explanation of what was changed and why, so kids who want to see the read thing can go look at it.

  • litlove

    But WHY do we have to pretend the past was different to what it was? In other contexts it leads to things like denial of the Holocaust, which those same liberal hearts would be horrified about. But it’s the same thing, sugarcoating what happened when in fact we really, really need to know, not least so that we can prevent it from happening again.

  • Tina DC Hayes

    I’m totally opposed to censorship of any kind, so I agree with you.

    I homeschool my kids and they’ve read the Twain in question. I explained the reasons behind the wording, the historical issues, etc. They are offended by racial slurs, as they should be, but literature doesn’t need to be censored, though certain points like this do need to be discussed with young minds.

    Changing the ‘N’ word to ‘slave’ just isn’t gonna cut it. The whole thing would sound off, like the ‘Sopranos’ with the stupid voice overs. I don’t think ‘Injun’ is offensive to many, as it’s mainly an alternate pronounciation of ‘Indian’ (and I have a little Cherokee in my bloodline), and it shouldn’t be changed; that is just a case of the school system trying to be too politically correct.

    One suggestion though. If a slight alteration would keep Twain’s work in the public school system, perhaps they could substite ‘N—-‘ for the ‘N’ word. The teachers should still discuss that point with the class, but that could keep the text in a more authentic state while also avoiding giving voice to the slur in class. Just an idea for a compromise.

  • sara

    might as well put a moustache on the Mona Lisa. oh wait…

  • Courtney Vail

    I do not approve of censorship of any kind and the language in Huck was reflective of the time. The word was widely used, and no amount of erasing is going to change that sad truth. And we shouldn’t forget what it was like. Ever. Same goes for any other monstrosity against humanity.

    I love that quote said by Mark Twain about the steak. How ironic. I’m gonna tweet that.

  • lola sharp

    Our Comcast used to be wonky too, but it’s been fairly solid for the last year or so, the exceptions being outages area-wide. (and hay have reduced as well)

    And, I agree with you. Censorship is a BIG NO for me.

    Happy 2011, Kimberly! 🙂

  • Arlee Bird

    This act of censorship is absurd and totally wrong. Much of the impact of this great book’s antiracism and antislavery message will be lost in the softening of the language. If someone wants to tamper with this issue, start with rap lyrics.

    Tossing It Out

  • Joy

    In a sense, what’s being said by the new editor is that today’s reader isn’t mature enough to handle the material as Twain wrote it, so it has to be watered down to a politically correct level.

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