Magazine article School Librarian

Reviews Editorial

Magazine article School Librarian

Reviews Editorial

Article excerpt

'Irreverent, coarse, semi-obscene, trashy and vicious'--quite discouraging words from a book critic! Furthermore that critic was not wrong, thank goodness, for the title which brought forth such ire is Huckleberry Finn. The contemporary comment, the book was first published in this country in 1884, was not the only opposition to this astonishing book both then and since. It comes to mind because a report on the radio drew attention to a new edition of the book with the offensive 'n' word expurgated and obliterated from the text. Indeed to read the book nowadays that word, and the prolific usage, is horribly startling. And yet it is within the context of that everyday ingrained vernacular and attitude of the time, and over a century or so too, that the story of Huck's friendship with a runaway and even his 'humbling' of himself in needing to feel honest and equal with Jim becomes all the more extraordinary and revolutionary as well as humane.

The radio coverage set up a discussion from polarised opinions. On the one hand the advantages of making the book acceptable for modern youngsters, therefore more widely read and even recommended for educational purposes, and the opposing view of the sacrosanct nature of the author's words in a work of literary art. I'm quite happy to sit on the fence in this debate (a fence whitewashed with a long handled brush: read the books) hoping that children do read this amazing book and if the use of that 'n' word is a total obstruction then a schools/education edition might be of value. I know full well of course that with plenty of copies in general circulation youngsters will rapidly realise that they have an 'approved' version and that will make the original totally and irresistibly desirable. The problem then is that they'll encounter the text away from the moderating interpretative strategies and influences of a wise teacher or librarian. …

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