And he’s writing it with a pen warmed up in Hell. You rule, Mr. C!
He would have, too.
Letters from Earth
Indeed. The man wrote 4 or 5 normal books that everyone knows and 30 book-feet of truly wack shit.
Diary of Adam and Eve was a crackup.
I am sure the man means well but Thomas Bowdler’s versions of Shakespeare are not read today and I expect this new edition of Huckleberry Finn will meet the same fate.
It’s the electronic books that we all should be worried about.
Not to be the fly in the ointment, but this is all a tempest in a teapot.
First, yes, I do prefer the original of any work, and I believe Huckleberry Finn is a classic that is best read as written.
BUT, changing public domain texts for specific purposes is remarkably common. The bible? OMG! That is one of the most re-written publications going. It’s re-written for little children, for teens for fundamentalists, for deists. Thomas Jefferson did his own version because he didn’t like the current one of the day. So that’s a bad example.
Even so, there are countless other examples of the work being altered to fit the market. This is neither the first nor the most extreme case. I tend to think the guy got fed up with book banners wanting to get rid of Huck Finn because of its content. I think he’s calling their bluff - removing the supposed offensive words forces them to face what really offends them. I bet the guy wouldn’t be upset if everyone quit reading his version in favor of the original again.
The [principle of opposing censorship is reasonable, but there is some justification for this expurgation. We reasonably restrict some products to people who have reached an age of presumed maturity: alcohol, driver’s licenses, In some cases, words can cause considerable pain, and letting immature people, whether by age of simple immaturity (see Dr. Laura Schlesinger who exercised her First Amendment Rights by repeating the N-word 11 times on her ratio show) use them is damaging. While age is no assurance of maturity, it does narrow the field a lot.
We typically teach subjects in a layered form – simplified at first, then in more detail. Huck Finn is deep and rich enough so that, while censorship does take something out of it, there’s a lot left for a preliminary reading, and we can come back to it when we’re ready.
Samskara, I don’t buy it. If MY ditzy, middle-class, repressed American parents could explain about the N-word and other things I read from original versions as a child and pre-teen, then ANY parents or teachers should be able to do so.
The N-word is presumably offensive to those of African descent and yet it is used all the time by the black community. Did they learn the word from reading Mark Twain?
cdward, they’re in it for the money. The publisher hopes to get the book into schools that would otherwise censor it. The fact that they are undermining the intent of the book is evidently irrelevant to them. The whole point of using that word over and over again (216 times – by an author who was obsessive about word choice) is to show how human beings were treated as nonhuman, assigning them a name that justified their maltreatment.
Also, there’s a hint to my mind of “neatening up” history here. “Slave” (the word they used) is not the same thing. Everyone knows that we no longer have slaves in the US. But people – white people – still use the N-word, and in exactly the same sense that Twain had people using it. (Whether black people are reclaiming it is irrelevant. Who uses a word, in what context, is as important as the word.)
Fundamentally, they are bowdlerizing this work for the cash.
Good one–but the line about the weather comes from Mark Twain’s neighbor and collaborator on “The Gilded Age,” Charles Dudley Warner. But I wouldn’t expect a mere queen to know that… :)
I’m afraid I’ve nothing to contribute to the debate (brain cells not functioning today.) With that said - get ‘em, Sam!
p.s. Great arc, Pab. Love it!
Asimov already pretty much did it with his Bible Commentary. A real hoot for a believer who has a sense of humor and sorrow for Ike’s passing without salvation.
Mark repented at the end of his life. How much is the only thing open to conjecture.
And I have to wonder if it’s Bible thumpers who are doing this or merely the greedy, as motivemagus points out. (Not that you can’t be both.)
It is fun to notice both the left and right wanting to clean up history and make it fit their versions. Alamo got John Wayned and years later got Billy Bob Thorntoned. VietNam and its soldiers got crucified while happening, now the soldiers get hero treatment and the country gets US jobs.
As stated before: they usually want to ditch Huck cause he’s amoral, not for his lingo.
And we can get all NRA and start screaming slippery slope. Catcher in the Rye is next? Grapes of Wrath with the Okies as talking imperfectly? And, after the speech, do we “correct” the attitudes? The Okies should have been grateful to get to move out of their homes into those fine work camps?
“They came for Huck Finn and I didn’t complain…”
Where did you hear that Clemens “repented” at the end of his life? His recently released autobiography (which he approved on his deathbed and ordered suppressed for 100 years, in part so that his strong opinions wouldn’t embarrass his family) makes his antipathy toward Christianity very clear.
Thomas Jefferson edited the Gospels, removing all references to anything that could be considered supernatural. It ended up being short and depressing.
Oh well, I’ll jump in too. I like Orwell’s take on things from “1984”:
Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past. (from memory, but the idea should be clear).
It’s worth remembering that with few exceptions, it is not illegal to lie about the past. Today’s culure is too full of examples to even bother citing.
…I don’t use the ‘word’ just because one group doesn’t want me to or because a group that finds it offensive uses it all the time,anyway,but because I have actually read
Huck Finn’!Jim is showed to be considered my most people in the book as just property and not even human,yet Huck condemns himself willingly to Hell for his love and admiration of this man.
It is exactly right.Sure there are millions of versions of The Bible,but take God out of anyone of them and it is no longer The Bible.
The same with Huck Finn.The people that want it removed have not read it.The people that use the word have not read it.
Huckleberry Finn is, and always will be this white boy’s favorite book. The idea of changing the “uncomfortable words ” is just plain silly.
However, there are folks, mostly black, who have no time for the book. They perceive Twain and the book as intentionally racist. Years ago, a documentary on Huckleberry Finn, explored how different folks felt and thought about the book. Some blacks hated and distrusted it, but some Blacks loved the book. One black man read passages that he especially loved. He said that they showed him Twain’s real empathy and understanding of blacks.
As much as I would like those who hate it to feel otherwise, they feel what they feel. I am not the one to amend those feelings. Their experience, some of it very bad, has made it nearly impossible to understand or even care about understanding what Twain intended.
Huck Finn, as written, needs to be taught at the High-School level. Much work needs to be done to find ways that teaching it does not humiliate and alienate black readers. Black negative experience with the book is real. Black feelings are real and need respect. Making this happen is no trivial project. We still live in a world where racism continues to rear its ugly head. Open conversation about racism is not easy and I suppose should not be. Whatever the case, these conversations are worth the considerable trouble they will require and may be important first steps towards a less racist society.
The cheap fix of changing words does nothing to help this and is in all respects a great hindrance.
Has anyone else noticed the irony that the “bleep” censor doesn’t seem to be working today? I’m seeing a few words in the comments today that I wouldn’t even try to type, knowing they get bleeped.
The comments about this are very valid and real; I appreciate that people have sincere thoughts about the matter. I discussed it with a young granddaugther this week as she did a report for BH Month.