The n-word: Michiko Kakutani has spoken.

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She has spoken.

Michiko Kakutani adds her two cents on the n-word debate in the New York Times today:

Mr. Gribben’s effort to update Huckleberry Finn (published in an edition with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by NewSouth Books), like Mr. Foley’s assertion that it’s an old book and “we’re ready for new,” ratifies the narcissistic contemporary belief that art should be inoffensive and accessible; that books, plays and poetry from other times and places should somehow be made to conform to today’s democratic ideals. It’s like the politically correct efforts in the ’80s to exile great authors like Conrad and Melville from the canon because their work does not feature enough women or projects colonialist attitudes.

Radford's mini-bowdlerization

Authors’ original texts should be sacrosanct intellectual property, whether a book is a classic or not. Tampering with a writer’s words underscores both editors’ extraordinary hubris and a cavalier attitude embraced by more and more people in this day of mash-ups, sampling and digital books — the attitude that all texts are fungible, that readers are entitled to alter as they please, that the very idea of authorship is old-fashioned. …

Michael Radford’s 2004 film version of “The Merchant of Venice” (starring Al Pacino) revised the play to elide potentially offensive material, serving up a nicer, more sympathetic Shylock and blunting tough questions about anti-Semitism. More absurdly, a British theater company in 2002 changed the title of its production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to “The Bellringer of Notre Dame.” … According to Noel Perrin’s 1969 book, “Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy: A History of Expurgated Books in England and America,” Victorians explained their distaste for the colorful, earthy works of 18th-century writers like Laurence Sterne and Henry Fielding by invoking the principle of “moral progress” and their own ethical superiority: “People in the 18th century, and earlier, didn’t take offense at coarse passages, because they were coarse themselves.”


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2 Responses to “The n-word: Michiko Kakutani has spoken.”

  1. Tweets that mention The Book Haven » Blog Archive » The n-word: Michiko Kakutani has spoken. -- Topsy.com Says:

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  2. Roseanne Sullivan Says:

    I agree with Kakutani.

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