Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Readers Respond to News of Huck Finn

Some left comments (which are always welcome) on my last blog entry about the new edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Some of my friends emailed me their responses which I would like to share:

“Excellent points Charlie, political correctness seems to be the only venue which is allowed to de-value art, whether written or sculpted or painted. Art expresses, if nothing else the thinking of the people of the day. To change it 150 years later will cause us not to grasp the thinking of the people in the day in which it was written, painted or sculpted. Silliness... pure silliness.”

"I love Huck Finn too, but I like the idea of the revised edition as an option. It makes the story more accessible to younger audiences. And it is just an option. The original will always be with us.”

“I found your article on your blog pertaining to political correctness, etc. thought provoking. Not sure I agree with you or Bro Will and his friend but the friend is surely better than the enemy and liberals who are so seldom realists in any sense of the word can surely work themselves into positions worse or as bad as the enemy. For sure.”

“I am appalled at the thought of someone changing already published historical literature! There are PLENTY of words that I find offensive in current literature, poetry, song, and rap, but that is what freedom of speech is! I also have the freedom not to not listen to and to not read what I find offensive. I have the freedom to overlook or bypass a few offensive words in consideration of the broader literary contribution of the work while taking into account the historical perspective under which the work was written. However, if there have been some people prevented from reading the works of Mark Twain because of some of the language found in his works and if those people will now be exposed to his work in revised form, then perhaps I can find some solace.”

"I love Will Campbell - even called him once. I look forward to reading the revised Huck Finn - The American classic against racism!"

One friend sent me to a link to a cartoon, Tom the Dancing Bug: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Corrected to reflect modern sensibilities). He calls it "a great send up of those who would alter the sacred text of Huck.” It is quite hilarious. You can see the cartoon here.

Thanks to all who weighed in on the controversy.


  1. Dear Mr. Kinnaird

    Greetings from Venkatesh Subba Rao, a PhD (Physics) candidate from Detroit,MI. I am originally from India, came to US in Fall 2002 to pursue my higher studies, and a big fan of Mark Twain. I was attracted by his humor, philosophy, satire, anti-imperialist stand etc.

    Here I wish to record my perspective about the issue of " Changing Mark Twain's classics".

    In the introduction for the edition ( editor, Prof. Gribben, categorically accepted the historical misnomer of the word "Indian", which will replacing the I-word. However, despite the apologetic tone of the editor, I beg to take strong exception with the reintroduction of the same misnomer as a replacement of the word "injun". This, I think, is inconsistent and inappropriate. In addition, such a misnomer for the word "Indian" in 21st century may possible be illegal, given the fact that India become an independent in 1947, and then a sovereign republic with her own constitution ,and is the largest democracy in the world.Please allow me to explain the reasons for my claim.

    As for as I understand the proposed changes were made by the editor in order to consider the the valid sentiments of a group (fairly a big group) of people in American. Hence the editor decided to change the N-word to slave and the I-word to Indian. However, according to the same logic, I was wondering how it justifiable to ignore the sentiments of we Indians (we are a insignificant minority in America but a pretty big group in the world) , and the sentiments of the Natives of American who were, as the editor correctly pointed out in his introduction, were misrepresented for hundreds of years. I do not wish and want such a misrepresentation to continue in 21st century and as a consequence affect the sentiment of Indians like myself and the hundreds of millions of self-respecting Indian. In addition, such re-introduction, I beleive may help the cause of untruth to propagate.

    I hope and wish that you are in agreement with my sentiments, and argument presented in this letter.

    Thank you for your time.

    With regards

  2. Venkatesh,

    Thank you for your comments. You raise a very important question. The use of the term "American Indian" has been so widespread, even with the modern terminology, "Native American" coming into use, I sometimes even hear native Americans interviewed in documentaries use the term "Indian" when referring to themselves. It has only been within this generation that we in our country have tried to use a more appropriate term for the first peoples of our continent.

    You raise a valid objection. I wonder how Professor Gribben would respond to your objection. And now that you mention it, I wonder how Native Americans feel about the new version (or the old version) of Huck Finn?

    Thank you for bringing your perspective to the discussion.

  3. Dear Mr. Kinnaird,

    Thank you very much for responding to my comments. I appreciate you for talking time, and effort to analyze and agree with the points mentioned in the comments.

    Since you 'wonder' how the Professor would have responded I wish to mention that I did contact him some weeks ago(in fact on the day I read about the proposed change in NY Times) to convey my sentiments, arguments, to lodge an official protest, and also to request him to discontinue project. However, he did have any the basic courtesy to even acknowledge the receipt of that initial email, let alone responding to it, and when he did eventually responded (only when I had emailed couple of weeks later a journalist and copied that email to Prof.Gribben). In that response, he was suggesting that I am may be spreading rumors and hence as a results disrespecting scholars like himself. In addition, I feel that he did not get the purpose as he mentioned that in the response that his intention was not to show any disrespect to Indians (we). My arguments were not related to the intentions at all (his actions only), and hence I found it quite strange that he feels that I am question his intentions/motivations, which for the record I have not done it yet.

    I, along my family and some the friends in India are trying to escalate our protest, and in fact have contacted various Indian govt agencies in India (like supreme court, prime minster's office etc) and here, Indian Ambassador to US. We have contacted different eminent scholars like Prof.Chomsky, and various media houses ( including the famed NY Times) to convey arguments and to request them to give an 'voice' to our protest. We are very delighted to get responses, similar to yours, from Prolf.Chomsky ans few others, which were in agreement to our arguments.

    In addition, in order to popularize our arguments and protest, we are in the process of disseminating the information through blogosphere, like through your blog. The positive responses like yours and Prof.Chomsky's gives us lots of energy to continue our protest.

    Since I am not sure about uploading here (already my comments are pretty long) I had refrained myself from telling all the details of my communications with persons and organizations. However, if you are interested please email me (in case you do not have my email please let me if and when you reply) and I will be more than happy to share, through email, with you all the communications.

    Finally, I request to you please let me know if you have any contacts in the 'traditional media'(print, electronics or TV), and who may me interested in our story/arguments/protest with regards to the issue of changing Twain.

    Thank you very much

    With regards

    PS: In case you were not aware, even now, the word "Indian" (stand alone) is still used in US govt official terminology (like for ex: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior). Hence we are contemplating of a petition to the US govt to request them to reconsider the usage of the stand alone word "Indian" in their official language.


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