On the 50th anniversary of the integration of the University of Georgia, when racial slurs were no doubt fouling the air of Athens, a professor at Auburn is purging the most familiar of those slurs from the best-known work of American literature, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
There’s got to be some kind of metaphor in there somewhere.
The sensitivity cleansing of this or any other classic work of art distresses me on multiple levels. Start with the fact that Huck Finn stands atop my list of favorite books. (If you’re already tempted to fire back some variation on “What about the Bible?” please refrain. You’re the better Christian. Point preemptively conceded.) I conservatively estimate I’ve read it 20 times, and that might be lowballing it. (I have a habit of reading favorite books over and over, with the result that I know some books almost well enough that I don’t really need to read them anymore, while there are way too many books I should have read and haven’t.)
Also, did it have to be Auburn? Granted, that’s probably the least of the issues here; if an AU professor named Alan Gribben, a respected Twain scholar, weren’t working on an edition of the book that replaces the emotionally loaded N-word with “slave” (as if they meant the same thing, which they don’t), somebody else sooner or later would be. But I’d rather it be somebody, and somewhere, else. The AU English Department dear to my heart and memory would have been appalled.
Now my wife informs me there’s a move afoot, or whatever the Internet equivalent of “afoot” might be, to buy up a bunch of copies of Gribben’s revised version of Twain’s classic and -- ready? -- burn them.
Great idea. If there’s one sure-fire (so to speak) way to demonstrate reverence for great, unabridged literature and strike a blow for intellectual freedom, it’s with a good book burning.
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