Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Censoring Mark Twain

In another in a long string of absurd decisions based on political correctness and modern sensibilities, one publisher has decided that Mark Twain must be censored if it is to make any money placing copies of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in public schools.  Yes, the dreaded "N" word is sprinkled throughout the book and, yes, it is offensive to modern ears.  But taken in its context the use of that word in Huckleberry Finn adds depth and impact to what Twain was trying to portray about the people and the times.

NewSouth Books, an Alabama publisher explains itself this way:
NewSouth has been bombarded with emails and phone calls questioning the value of sanitising a classic work of 19th century literature for the sake of modern sensibilities.

But spokeswoman Suzanne La Rosa says the censorship allows the book to be read in schools, where it was becoming shunned.
Ms La Rosa says she understands the argument that the novel is social history as well as literature, but says censored text is not meant to replace the original.

"There are literally scores of editions of these Twain books out there on the marketplace for people who really place adherence to Twain's original text on the top of their priority lists," she said.

"We simply felt that there was room in the marketplace for a book that was a gentler read.

"This is hardly going to make a difference, really a ripple, even, in terms of what is available
A "gentler read" or a dumbed-down, neutered read? You decide.

Before you do decide, take a look what literary historian, and fellow blogger, D.G. Myers has to say on the subject over at A Commonplace Blog. Here is a taste of what Mr. Myers adds to the conversation:
So much for Twain’s irony. “I’m hoping that people will welcome this new option,” Gribben says, “but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified.”

Not only textual purists. What is far more horrifying to contemplate is how anyone who studies the novel in “the new classroom,” where Gribben says the author’s intended version is “really not acceptable,” can possibly hope to understand Huckleberry Finn. Twain’s point in the novel is that human “sivilization” (including the institution of slavery) is little more than legalized violence. The only true freedom lies outside “sivilization” altogether, which is why, in the last sentences of the book, Huck decides to “light out for the [Indian] Territory ahead of the rest”—that is, decides to flee human contact altogether.
Go here for the whole article I quote from and to a second, related one:

Hemingway Is Next

More Books to Gribbenize    - in which Myers has fun sanitizing a paragraph from Moby Dick

As for me, I smell a rat - and that rat is money.  This new simpleton's version of Huck Finn is going to be sold to schools at $25 a pop when the real version can be found at bookstores in quality paperback format for about $7 - and downloaded free of charge at more than a dozen websites.

Just when I think I've seen it all...(famous last words).

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