Friday, January 7, 2011

"...mostly a true book, with some stretchers..."

Rich Lowry writes about the well-intentioned, but unfortunate, decision by an academic editor to bowdlerize Huckleberry Finn:
.... When I discovered Mark Twain as a kid, I ripped through a bunch of the novels one summer, these musty-smelling old editions in our basement that my grandfather had gotten as part of a newspaper give-away. They’re books you almost regret reading because you’ll never be able to read them for the first time again. In poking around yesterday, I came across this passage from Huck Finn at random, of a lonely Huck ruminating:
I felt so mournful I most wished I was dead. The stars was shining, and the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful; and I heard an owl away off, who-whooing about somebody that was dead, and a whippowill and a dog crying about somebody that was going to die; and the wind was trying to whisper something to me and I couldn’t make out what it was, and so it made the cold shivers run over me.
Anyway, I credit the editor of the NewSouth Books edition for good intentions–he doesn’t want the book’s audience to shrink in the controversy over one hateful word–but I think what he’s done is a mistake at all levels. ....
It has been some time since I read the book but the lasting impression it left with me was the absurdity of racism. And use of the "N-word" accentuated rather than diminished that impression.

Hands Off Huck - By Rich Lowry - The Corner - National Review Online