Thursday, January 13, 2011

More About Huck Finn

Huffington Post contributor Trey Ellis has written an article explaining why censoring Huckleberry Finn is complicated.

Look, I write grown-up novels and movies and pack them with as much challenging material as possible. I'm a proud progressive, but my entire career has been spent poking the incurably PC in the eye. There's nothing I like better than calling a spade a spade whenever some well-intentioned person has a niggardly attitude toward the freedom of artistic expression.

And yet... this summer when I read Huck Finn aloud to my then eight- and eleven-year-olds before tucking them in for the night, I too made the exact same edits. This fall I read them Ernest Gaines' classic, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman and censored that text as well.

While I in no way condone publicly censoring anyone's work for any reason whatsoever, in my home, before putting my kids to bed, I make the rules. At the time, even my oldest wasn't quite ready to appreciate either book on her own. Nevertheless, I wanted to share those two great pieces of literature with them without having to try to explain the confusion and pain and nuance surrounding the repeated use of the "n-word."

Not that he lets Gribben off the hook:

Professor Gribben is a respected Twain scholar; however, this is not a respectable version of perhaps the single most important American book ever. If your intended reader isn't mature enough to understand the context of the entirety of this magnificent work then searching and replacing a few nouns won't enlighten them. A truly child-friendly version should probably clock in at under a hundred pages and be clearly marked as only a tool to whet young literary appetites for the complicated wonders that lie ahead.


Post a Comment