Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The New York Times article: Publisher Tinkers With Twain

Thoughts?

13 comments:

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

This all winds me up greatly. It was a different age with different values and things shouldn't be altered.

Anonymous said...

Huckleberry Finn is still a misunderstood novel. Possibly juvenile pupils should be educated using this masterwork instead of 'cleansing' the text.

Mary Fischer

David Cranmer said...

I am reading the Mark Twain bio and there is a passage where he complains to his mother about a slave's constant singing. His mom explains to him that this child will never see his own mother again and Mrs. Clemens (Twain) laments this to her son and offers her famous offspring a new perspective. I failed to do this poetic scene from the autobiography justice (I highly recommend reading the book) but from that moment forward Mark Twain had a progressive attitude toward African-Americans from what I have gathered. (I'm still reading it.)

Am I missing something?

Leah J. Utas said...

It destroys the flavour no matter what anyone says.
It is an accurate reflection of the times. It should remain as written.
And if we sanitize everything the words will lose their power. Then they'll be brought back to general use again because no one will remember why they were altered in the first place.
The words don't offend me. This nonsense does.

Chris said...

Yeah, this is ridiculous. It angers and frustrates me.

Anonymous said...

Mary again.

I also speculate about literature pre-1970s where the word "colored" was used by well renowned writers including leading African American novelists. Would we re-write these as well?

AC said...

It is what it is. I refer to people who embark on these fascist missions as the Polite Police. In the case of Huck Finn, they wear their ignorance on their sleeves, as they clearly missed the point. Twain was indeed a progressive and a close reading of Huck Finn demonstrates this. Jim is the ONLY decent adult character in the book. His decision to stay and nurse Tom Sawyer, even after Tom has put him through hell knowing full well that Jim has been freed, demonstrates a humanity no other character in the book has. Hardly a racist objective can be detected, at least, if your brain functions on rational cylinders...

David Cranmer said...

I'm embarrassed (ashamed is a better word) to say I've never read HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I’ve read SAWYER and seen the FINN film adaptations but never read The Great American Novel. I have The Collected Works of M.T. on my Kindle and I will begin it today.

Scott Parker said...

One way of looking at the new Huck Finn is as a translation. There are dozens of different translations of the Bible, each with a unique purpose. One of my favorites is The Message, the Bible in modern language. It's startling to hear the 23rd Psalm in that vernacular, but the message still resonates as do the underlying themes. Here, it's almost as if it's the opposite: taking a classic tale and morphing it to sound modern. I think some of the meaning from the original--unlike the Bible--is lost. But, as long as this new version is not forced upon anyone, we can all bypass it and head straight for the true classic.

David Cranmer said...

Scott, A valid point but I wonder how I would feel if I came back a hundred years from now and found my work changed. Ok. Silly. I'd be happy folks were still reading my tales regardless of the translation. But I guess what's disturbing with the Twain updates is his book according to Wikipedia was a scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism. So, I'm not sure the need to change it.

But who am I to say. I just began chapter one twenty minutes ago. My opinion may change.

Ron Scheer said...

Twain would be tickled to know that he's stirred up another tempest among us. My guess is that he'd insist on leaving the words as is. Reading novels from 100 years ago, I come across all manner of racial epithets, while cuss words were avoided at all costs and only alluded to, sometimes inventively.

I've come to believe that it's important to know where we come from socially and culturally, and that racism doesn't vanish just because you substitute one word for another. If these words make someone uncomfortable, then maybe they should. It seems a poor reason to "clean up" a classic.

G said...

A quote from the Mark Twain House here in Hartford CT said it best:

"Although we admire Dr. Alan Gribben's scholarship and share his desire to have the books be widely accessible in schools, we encourage readers to experience Mark Twain's original text whenever possible. Our education department actively works with schools across the country to contextualize the troubling race relations and use of the 'n'-word during Twain's lifetime. We invite teachers to contact us if they would like assistance on how to integrate the text into their curriculum in a socially and historically responsible way. We invite the public to visit our current Yours Truly, Huck Finn exhibition to explore why the novel has endured for over 125 years and the house where Twain lived while he created this masterpiece."

David Cranmer said...

Ron, Amazing he can still push our buttons. We really don't progess much do we?

Thanks for that, G. Nice to see the folks there are on top of it.