04 January 2011

Really? That's Going Too Far

Blogging with a dog is distracting. And the question mark in the title typeface is ugly.

I read this today. To be completely honest, I get so much news through Google Reader that I don't read it all, but I do look at all the headlines and then choose which articles to actually read. So I read some. ANYWAY, I am disgusted. I wonder what my publishing classmates (and professors) would think of that statement. And what they would think of the idea. But I've always been a little surprised about the banning of Huck Finn in schools, it seems like such an overreaction. I am not in any way condoning the use of the word in question, it is absolutely not okay, but 150 years ago it was okay, and Huck Finn was written 150 (or so) years ago. Plus, substituting "slave" isn't much better. And there were a few (not many, but some) free African Americans at the time, so that might not be a completely accurate substitution. Although I haven't read it for years, so I don't know.

PLUS, it is not okay to change someone's writing. I don't know if that would break copyright laws now, I don't know that much about copyright laws since a) it was discussed very briefly in my book publishing course and b) I didn't pay 100% of my attention during those discussions. They were long and dry, and I hate author contracts. But I'm thinking it would. Of course, they don't apply to works that old or something (remember, I didn't pay attention). Either way, I don't approve of this decision at all, and I hope they get a lot of flack for it. That isn't very kind of me, is it? But I do think the cover is attractive.

Unrelated, I got a "Happy Holidays" card from Emerson today. Quite thoughtful of them.


  1. Emailed from Michael:

    Yep, legally they can do whatever they want because it's all in the public domain. If you want to have a copyright discussion, and by discussion I mean rant, I'm always ready.

    But as to the change, I agree that it's ridiculous. In fact, Huck's use of the word is important. In Twain's time (he wrote it a decade or two after the civil war), it wasn't an accepted word everywhere. Huck needs to use the word to show the world he's grown up in, and more importantly, the world he outgrew. The love, respect, and friendship means more precisely because of the raw language, much more than if he had just said "slave" (that's a fact-based word, not a value-based word, and the book is about values) or African-American, or you name it. Sugarcoating who Huck was and the world he knew diminishes who he became.

    But let me defend the edition with a question: While we can agree that the book shouldn't be banned anywhere, let's just assume that will always be banned somewhere. Would you rather students in those schools read the edited Huck Finn, or not read it all?

    IMHO, Twain's writing had one consistent flaw. He never knew how to end a novel, Huck Finn included.

    Sent from my EliPhon