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It's in the public domain yall. It's going to be altered, interpreted, and republished in ways you don't like. Sometimes it's going to suck. But sometimes? Sometimes it's going to be awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nkn8n18yS7A
Wait. That could be publishing gold. I call dibs on Nabokov's "Pikachu"!
And, what if we frame it like this, as the original PW article does:
"Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of "all modern American literature." Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation's most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: "nigger.""
Edited mandatory Huck Finn vs unedited banned Huck Finn. I guess I might vote edited mandatory.
You mean the Warrant song? No need to re-write that song, it's perfect just the way it is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx6f68Wd9dc
@Oregometry -1,000 for mentioning Nazis (even if it was funny)
@blogtown +5 for no one mentioning Ray Bradbury...yet
I think framing it as a choice between censorship by editing or censorship by omission is too limiting. Editing the word "nigger" out of "Huck Finn" sends the message that either teachers can't be trusted to properly and sensitively contextualize the book for students or that children can't be trusted to understand it.
I think a good classroom discussion on this very issue is the type of thing that will prevent future generations from wringing their hands over books like this.
Well, yes, you do, when their works in the public domain. I could release a version containing nothing but every other paragraph if I wanted to.
But, to the matter at hand, I fail to see how the solution to school censorship is preemptive publisher censorship. The solution to problematic speech is always, always, more speech.
This is the same formula that powered P. Diddy's career in the late nineties.
As with so many things, it's naive to think if we take away the supply, the demand will see itself out as well. Probably better to look at the regional practice of banning books than it is to go after one opportunistic English professor.
You're totally right that's it's perfectly legal and occasionally awesome. I'm still pretty pissed about the "Children's Classics" versions of books I read as a kid without realizing that they were all changed to protect me. For years I thought Faust got out of his deal with the Devil by changing his mind. Boy did I feel stupid.
Also, why the fuck is he combining Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn into one book? Put them in the same volume, sure, but they really don't need to be a single tale.
Especially replacing the word "nigger" with "slave", which means something different entirely.
Again, one publisher producing one edition ablating the two most controversial words might be inane, but it's hardly the twilight of Western literature.
Beyond that, the whole affair seems to stink of the same failed distinction between discomfort and threat that our society makes time and time again. To say that reading the word "nigger" so many times in a book makes one uncomfortable is fine - it SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable, and is part of the enduring VALUE of Huck Finn.
But, to say that reading that word is somehow so threatening, so insidious, and so irredeemable (either artistically, historically, or socio-politically) as to require redaction, replacement, and substitution, is histrionic, ignorant, short-sighted, and over-protective of our children to the point of smothering and suffocating them right when they're about to embark on an existentially and educationally significant adventure by reading Twain.
@alison I see what you're saying but to me, the language used in Huck Finn is so much a part of the story that if it were changed it would be like reading a translated version of an Irvine Welsh novel (Trainspotting For Dummies). Not worth it.
I just chimed in to say that everyone who loves Twain/Huck Finn should read George Saunders' intro to the Random House paperback edition, which is located in obviously scanned .pdf format here:
It's a lot less daunting than the terrifying, towering first edition of Twain's autobiography, which is currently holding my coffee table fast to the earth, and possibly slightly affecting the moon's orbit (and with it, the Earth's tides).
I think Twain, had he been alive today, would have also wanted a description of St. Petersburg to include a Jawa being bucked off of a big beast he's riding. Also, the Shepherdsons are going to fire first.
In reality, this is fucking stupid.