Publisher’s Weekly reports on an astonishing Orwellian cave-in to political correctness: a proposal to remove the words “nigger” and “Injun” from “Huckleberry Finn”:
Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of “all modern American literature.” Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: “nigger.”
Twain himself defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Rather than see Twain’s most important work succumb to that fate, Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the “n” word (as well as the “in” word, “Injun”) by replacing it with the word “slave.”
This sort of silliness is nothing new; I noted in 2003 that the NAACP (whose acronym includes a reference to the racist word “colored”!) objected to “To Kill a Mockingbird” on the basis that it contains the dreaded n-word. And we watched with amusement as New York City sought to “ban” the word in 2007.
But the saddest part of this story is that the guy behind the whitewashing considers himself to be a Twain scholar:
“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”
The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”
. . . .
“What he suggested,” said La Rosa, “was that there was a market for a book in which the n-word was switched out for something less hurtful, less controversial. We recognized that some people would say that this was censorship of a kind, but our feeling is that there are plenty of other books out there—all of them, in fact—that faithfully replicate the text, and that this was simply an option for those who were increasingly uncomfortable, as he put it, insisting students read a text which was so incredibly hurtful.”
One should not have to explain to a Twain scholar that the hurtful nature of the word “nigger” is the whole fucking point. But you can’t argue with a guy who thinks he is saving the book by destroying it:
“Dr. Gribben recognizes that he’s putting his reputation at stake as a Twain scholar,” said La Rosa. “But he’s so compassionate, and so believes in the value of teaching Twain, that he’s committed to this major departure. I almost don’t want to acknowledge this, but it feels like he’s saving the books. His willingness to take this chance—I was very touched.”
Hm. It feels to me like, instead of saving the book, he is working to actively destroy it — not just the book and its central message, but the notion of authorial integrity, the idea of confronting injustice head on, and about a dozen other critical concepts.
It’s enough to make you want to scream in frustration. Slapping the “morons” tag on this post doesn’t feel sufficient; stuff like this makes me want to create a new category called “Utter and Complete Fucking Morons.”
I know that language may seem a little rough . . . but again: that’s the whole fucking point.
UPDATE: I have just received word of Gribben’s next project: a new version of Orwell’s “1984″ that will replace the disturbing term “doublethink” with the more soothing term “harmonious cogitation.”
UPDATE x2: See also: Michelle Malkin.