Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A kinder, gentler Huck Finn - SMH




Today I learned about the upcoming publication of a new edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' that is to Drop 'N' Word. "Slave" will be used in its place throughout. Beyond moronic. What purpose is served besides pissing off Twain's ghost?


I am all for the choice of black people to cease & desist use of N-word just as I don’t want to hear it from the mouths of Caucasians. But whitewashing history is as absurd as whitewashing the present.


Mark Twain wrote nigger (yeah, I said it) in his book a bunch of times for the same reason I did in mine. It's called REALISM. He wasn't writing Fantasy. What do you think slave owners called African Americans in those times? How do you think black people were treated? As if they weren't people at all, that's how. If we sugar coat our horrific past now we will convince future generations that it wasn't so bad. When you fail to properly highlight and condemn atrocities, you welcome the opportunity for repetition of history. I don't want my great great grandchildren to believe the Holocaust was a Summer picnic and slavery was a leisurely stroll through the park.


Removing the N-word from Huck Finn should get it removed it from many banned book lists, which is the strongest argument for editing. My alternate suggestion - Complain like hell & if necessary change schools if your kid attends one that refuses to respect Twain's masterpiece. I'd rather a book be banned and retain its power (curious enough minds will read it whether assigned in school or not) than rewritten to make it impotent.

X

X





As a public service perhaps hip hop artists will consider increasing N-word usage from 20 to 30 times per rap song to keep it from going extinct.

X

X
Argument for removing N-word from Huck Finn is to make text less hurtful. It's SUPPOSED TO BE hurtful. You can't heal unless you first hurt. This nation needed the smack across the face that Huckleberry Finn provided. And you know what - It still does.



A young white man reading Huck Finn as written is able to see horror & unfairness of racism, it can help make him a better man. Why dilute that?



Huckleberry Finn is one of the works that influenced me to want to write about race in my fiction. Had I read a bastardized version I’m not sure if it has quite the same effect. I suspect not though.



I include Huckleberry Finn with Native Son, Invisible Man, Soul on Ice, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as the most powerful examinations & indictments of racism in literature. Despite my pseudo-defense of her, I'm not quite putting the wit and wisdom of Dr. Laura Schlessinger in that pantheon.


Political Correctness has got to be the greatest oxymoron of all time.


Literary censorship has its place. I was against Amazon carrying a how-to-be-a-better-Pedophile book & against shelving racist Tintin book in kid section. But The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not need to be censored. It needs to be celebrated for brilliance of narrative and potency of social commentary.

X

X





Then again, if Huck Finn remains on banned lists young people may resort to reading Snooki's book instead, so perhaps some language clean up isn't such a bad idea after all.

X

X

"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Author's Notice.


"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Opening lines of the book



"What's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?" - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

X

X

"All right, then, I'll go to hell." - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

4 comments:

  1. Excellent debate. This is a very interesting concept. In Canada, books are not banned, it is up to the descretion of the librarian. (I work at a library) It is interesting how kids will swarm to the books labled "mature reads", but according to the freedom of information act, as an employee I am not allowed to stop them from signing out whatever they want, plus I don't have to divulge that information to their parents. If I knew a book had the "f" word in it I would warn the student. If I knew we had a copy with the "f" taken out, I would reccomend that one instead.
    I think the "n" word is overused in today's society because we are potraying the historical significance of it so readily in the media. If we expose kids to the "f" word all the time they will use it in their conversations. If we expose kids to the "n" word, they will also use it. Adults aren't as easily beguiled by literature so I say, let them read Uncle Tom'e Cabin and Roots unedited, but Huck Finn was meant for kids. That said, in my library we are NOT chucking the unedited Huck Finn, nor do we see a need to buy the new one, but when I read it to my own children, I will say "slave".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post. I see this was back in Jan so you may not have seen this . http://www.dianidevine.com/huck-finn-robotic-edition/

    ReplyDelete
  3. "censorship is like saying a man cannot eat a steak because a baby cannot chew it"

    -Mark Twain

    ReplyDelete