"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter..." - Mark Twain
Huck Finn is being edited to remove what society now sees as unsavory words. I'm sure there's been plenty of posts about this across the blogosphere in the past few days, but I think it warrants repeating.
I believe Alan Gribben, the Twain expert responsible for this, had good intentions. This book has been banned in the majority of schools and he feels that "...a significant number of school teachers, college instructors, and general readers will welcome the option of an edition of Twain's ... novels that spares the reader from a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol." Very few copies will be printed.
I think this leapt out at me because my daughter (just 9) struggled with reading for the first few years (while my son (her twin) began Harry Potter at the beginning of 1st grade). It's not that she couldn't; she just didn't really care for it. When she had to do her nightly reading she chose "younger" books simply so she could get it over with. But, this past summer she found an age-appropriate story about dogs she thought she'd enjoy and read it - slowly, but she read it. The reading bug still hadn't struck her completely, though.
When her teacher assigned a book report in the beginning of the 3rd grade school year, she wanted to read something far below her level, and I refused to let her. We went through the massive stacks of books and I pulled out the Illustrated children's adaptation of Tom Sawyer - by Deirdre S. Laiken. Baby A is not a girly-girl so I thought it might interest her. I never gave a second thought to content - I'd loved this book when I read it. I do know they use Injun Joe, but the "n" word does not appear in this one.
To make it short, she couldn't put it down. She did the book report by herself, and it was amazing. She had to bring "items" from the story to share with class and her excitement over choosing things thrilled me.
The child has not stopped reading since. The classics (adapted for children) are by far her favorites. She got through Dr. Dolittle in record time, only because she couldn't wait to get to Treasure Island. Even better, she has begun drawing pictures and writing her own stories to go along with them. She did a great little series on bullies using the croc mascot from her school.
Obviously the originals are above her level (or were when she started), I wouldn't have kept them from her for reason of censorship. I think Twain did a great job telling a story of boyhood adventures and friendship, while clearly showing his views on race. And what he thought of the racist society in which they (he?) were raised.
Copyright laws become an issue here, for me, too. It's the author's life plus 75 years (in America). I wonder if that should be? Why not make it forever? But then again, I like the idea of an author being able to use old quotes/lyrics in their story. Apparently the heirs of Margaret Mitchell [sort of] found a way around this. They hired someone pen SCARLETT, which basically re-copyrighted the Scarlett/Rhett characters. That's very interesting in itself.*
I'd love to hear Twain's thoughts on this, but I'll probably never get that. ;) So how about you...What was your reaction when you heard about this censored version?
*Thanks to Diana Gabaldon for the discussion input on copyright laws and SCARLETT.