Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rewriting ‘Huckleberry Finn’

A soon to be released edition of Mark Twain's Classic ‘Huckleberry Finn’ ditches the ‘n’ word which is used regularly in the novel.
The effort is spearheaded by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who says his PC-ified version is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it. “Race matters in these books,” Gribben told PW. “It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

Unsurprisingly, there are already those who are yelling “Censorship!” as well as others with thesauruses yelling “Bowdlerization!” and “Comstockery!” Their position is understandable: Twain’s book has been one of the most often misunderstood novels of all time, continuously being accused of perpetuating the prejudiced attitudes it is criticizing, and it’s a little disheartening to see a cave-in to those who would ban a book simply because it requires context.

My issue is that Gribben and his PC cronies are changing a work of art! They are changing the words that Mark Twain put on the page, thought about, edited and in the end included in his novel--a copyrighted work of art.

My problem is that we are altering an enduring work of art. If Huckleberry Finn was such a good novel, it would not have lasted to this day as something to be read, discussed. But the reason it has endured as a work of art is because it makes us think about our assumptions about people, about the world we live in and who we chose to share our life with.

Would these same liberals be okay with altering the Mona Lisa? Or Michealangelo's David? Are we next going to start editing and revising Shakespeare?

If Mr. Gribben is such an expert, he should be defending the work of art as it was written by Twain, not as he thinks it should be written in the 21st Century. Twain is not alive and we can't ask him what he thinks. We should not presume to think he would think differently, which is exactly what Mr. Gribben is doing because he claims some sort of "expertise." All we have are the words Twain put on the page and we shouldn't and mustn't change them just because we don't like some of the words.

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