Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Burn Baby Burn

Have you all heard that in the name of political correctness and trendy sensitivity, the word "nigger" is going to be taken out of Mark Twain's classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Read the story here. It will be replaced by the word "slave." This is the modern-day equivalent of the Puritanical/Victorian practice of covering innumerable marble and stone penises with fig leaves, in my humble opinion. Listen, there is always going to be somebody offended by great art. It's quite inevitable. Great art doesn't care. People with little bitty narrow minds care. Salacious, vulgar, and obscene material is one thing: society has the right to protect itself from these things in certain cases. But should censorship be imposed on writing because it contains words that the purveyors of taste consider offensive? I don't think so.

Ray Bradbury, the sf writer, who penned one of the most memorable works in that genre, Fahrenheit 451, which was about a society that ordered all books burned had this to say when he was asked whether his book should be sanitized so as not to offend the young readers of today. Here's part of his response:
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian/ Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist/ Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist/ Women’s Lib/ Republican/  Mattachine/ Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.
This is what any author would say, isn't it? Tart, but true. Oh, Lord, preserve us from the True Believers who are bound and determined to make us all holy, even if it kills us.

UPDATE I: Here is another good article on this whole subject of bowdlerizing Huck Finn and other classics.
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