There is a lot of buzz right now about the new NewSouth Books edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn being edited to change the “n” word to “slave.” Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of “censorship.” BUT, I don’t view every editorial change as “censorship.”
Original editions of Mark Twain’s works can still be purchased and read. His books in their original form are not being erased from existence. It is not illegal or difficult to purchase copies of the original editions. I do think people should keep reading them. And, libraries and bookstores should continue to shelve them. Twain’s works are great, but do I want my 8 year old niece to read all of the words of the original Tom Sawyer? No. But, do I want her to become familiar with Twain and other great writers? Yes!
Printing a new edition of a book, using more contemporary language is not “censorship.” In fact, the covers of the new books say “The NewSouth Edition.” I know people want to make sure not to lose the great classics of literature, but the printing of new editions, unless they are truly going to burn all of the old ones and prevent people from getting them, is not “censorship” but quite the opposite; new editions of old works actually often helps keep the classics alive in new ways, and broadens the audience. I am glad there is an edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that I have the option to buy that introduces children to Mark Twain, without having to introduce them to the “n” word at the same time. Again, let me be clear, people should and can still read the original edition if they want to do so, with the historically accurate text, but having a new edition without the 219 uses of the n” word, is a great option to have.
I have a feeling I will be writing on this topic in a few more blog entries in coming days.
Marti Williams, Publisher