Mr. Friedkin? Mr. Hawks? Meet Mr. Madison and Mr. Twain

It was Saturday Censorship at the Movies last night in Cable Land.

First, I got to watch that manly channel, Spike, blanch at showing a possessed 12-year-old girl use the work “fuck”, which, as you horror devotees know, is a word rather central to showing how she has been taken over, like Helen Thomas, by the demon Pazuzu. There was Linda Blair, as the suddenly possessed Regan O’Neill, bouncing rhythmically on her bed as her horrified mother and physician looked on, shouting “—Me!—Me!—Me!”, apparently horrifying them with a noisy outbreak of egocentricity. The later scene in which the Demon Child is found masturbating with a crucifix was also clumsily chopped up so it was impossible to figure out what was going on. Continue reading

Mr. Madison, Meet Mr. Twain

Whitewashing America’s past doesn’t honor it, burnish it, or repair it. All it accomplishes is making present-day Americans ignorant, naive, cocky and shallow. American society deserves respect for recognizing its ethical and moral errors and misconceptions, debating them, and remarkably often, fixing them. This is another reason why the new volume of Mark Twain masterpieces omitting his pointed use of the word “nigger” does damage to history and culture. It is also the reason why the Republican-led reading of the Constitution should have included all of the Constitution, including the document’s initial support of slavery.

It didn’t. Continue reading

The Ethics of “Improving” Mark Twain

From Publishers Weekly:

“Mark Twain …defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Rather than see Twain’s most important work succumb to that fate, Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the “n” word (as well as the “in” word, “Injun”) by replacing it with the word “slave.”

“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

No law can stop Gribben and NewSouth from doing this vandalism to Twain’s classics. The two books are firmly ensconced in the realm of the public domain: no longer subject to copyright,  Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer can be published in Pig Latin or with all the characters transformed into Martians. Still, it is wrong, obviously wrong and inexcusably wrong, and the most responsible thing any of us can do in the name of respect for literature, authors, American history, and education is to say so as vociferously as possible in as many ways and media as possible, so no misguided, politically correct fool will ever be tempted to do anything like this again. Continue reading

First Necklaces, Now Literary Magazines: On the Civility Deathwatch

Public civility is clearly on its deathbed.

As if it wasn’t bad enough to have a pop diva proudly wearing jewelry that says “Fuck You” to the world (see previous post), now it appears that gutter discourse is considered acceptable under the banner of one of America’s most distinguished  literary magazines, The Atlantic Monthly.  From the magazine’s online site: Continue reading