Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Lightning Bug and the Lightning

The book world is abuzz this week with the news that Alabama publishing company NewSouth Books is planning to publish an edition of the Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which every instance of the word "nigger"(219 times) is replaced by the word "slave".
Behind the change is Twain scholar Alan Gribben, English professor at Auburn University Montgomery. Gribben, in defense of his censored version, said "I want to provide an option for teachers and other people not comfortable with 219 instances of that word."
According to Herbert Foerstall, author of "Banned in the USA", Huckleberry Finn is the 4th most frequently banned book in American schools - with offensive language cited as the most common reason for the ban.
Yesterday, nine authors, English professors, and a professor of law weighed in on the subject of sanitizing the Twain classic in the New York Times feature Room for Debate. All nine responses are excellent reading. I enjoyed them all for the passionate and articulate points each author made.
Twain himself cared about words and chose them very carefully. In fact, he said "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. It is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning". I'm pretty sure I know which side of the argument Mr. Twain would come down on.
Even Steven Colbert had an opinion.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Huckleberry Finn Censorship
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

How about you?

1 comment:

  1. The argument they've been using is that schools refuse to let the book be taught, since it has the n-word in it. Isn't it better to have it taught in a censored form than not taught at all?

    Well, no.

    No it's not better.

    You don't solve the problem by bending to censors. You solve the problem by getting people to understand the book in the first place. If people are so closed minded as to want to dismiss the book because of language alone, then maybe they themselves need to go back to high school and take a few more courses.

    That said, Twain would be eating this up with a spoon. Anything to sell more copies of his book--he was all about the Benjamins, and this is a great ploy to mint some more.