Second-Guessing Mark Twain

January 6, 2011

By Yul

Mark Twain’s masterpieces, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, are becoming politically correct, thanks to Montgomery, Alabama, publisher NewSouth Books, who is producing a new combined edition.

On the advice of some local hot-shot Twain scholar named Alan Gribben, they are replacing the 219 instances of the word nigger with slave.

And they think leading schoolkids to believe that Twain said being black = slavery is an improvement.

Just for good measure, they’re also replacing injun with indian, because NOBODY in the South speaks in a dialect that mangles spelling. (For the record, southern squirrels think they’re squirls).

Once again, form triumphs over substance. A word is granted unlimited power so people can fixate on the word itself (and show their sensitivity by calling it “the n-word”) instead of thinking about what it MEANS and cluing in their kids.

Instead of letting Twain deliver his timeless message about man’s inhumanity to man, they’d rather let American kids grow up naïve and ignorant of the past’s realities so they can commit future atrocities and think they invented them. And so our stupid future leaders can get their asses handed to them by other countries who valued honesty and knowledge and actually prepared their next generation to avoid blunders already committed and recorded.

When nobodies like NewSouth and Gribbens are allowed to second-guess one of America’s all-time most insightful writers, where does it stop?

I’ll tell you. It doesn’t stop.

Next, NewSouth may decide to revise Gone With the Wind so the Confederacy wins and southerners can finally feel good about themselves and get a life.

(The Richmond Times-Dispatch — Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, don’t you forget it — made its first 2011 front-page headline about the Civil War. No lie. ‘Round these parts, there ain’t nothin’ goin’ on in the world bigger than a 145-year-old war.)

And if we continue our purge of all literature that might upset or agitate somebody, somewhere, we should probably “fix” other classics so they won’t offend, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Darned and Henry Miller’s Tropic of a Suspicious Lump.

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