Mark Twain is a hero of mine.
I don’t use the word ‘hero’ often and usually not without sarcasm. But, I genuinely mean it, I believe Twain to be the consummate American novelist, the greatest celebrity of his time while being giddily contrarian and openly antagonist of religion. A true role model, you might say.
When I list literary influences and favorite authors, Fitzgerald, Dostoevsky and Kerouac are the first names on my lips, but Mark Twain is my favorite author who I’m not trying to emulate. When I hear of an author compared to Twain, I avoid them because I know they’ll never live up to the comparison.
Twain stands alone among American authors, mixing the literary with the populist, highbrow with lowbrow, coarse satire with heart-wrenching sincerity. I don’t consider him my favorite author, but I’ll argue for his stature high above any author you want to name.
No, this is not the same as editing the Godfather for network television (a practice I disagree with, also, but that’s beside the point). If someone was reading Huckleberry Finn on ABC (a la Andy Kaufman), then fine, censor the reading of it.
But don’t censor a fucking book! Books will be, and always should be, the last stand against censorship. In books we can express any and every idea, no matter how unpopular, offensive or left of center. It’s true, in this day and age, the internet is about as uncensored and unfiltered a place as you can get, but the internet isn’t art. It can house art, it can display art, but it isn’t art in itself (it’s the world’s largest library).
Books can bridge that gap between popular art and elitist art, making it the perfect medium to disseminate new and/or difficult ideas to the masses.
The argument that censoring Huck Finn will help educators because “the pervasive use of that word makes it harder for students to read or absorb the book” is such utter bullocks. If students aren’t ‘absorbing’ the book, it’s because they’re lazy, bored fucktards, not because there is any fault with the book (a masterpiece if ever there was one*). If that word bothers students, then it is the perfect opportunity to get students to engage in a conversation about it, about racism, about how the world has changed since Twain’s time.
What are students supposed to be getting out of their literature classes if one of the main themes of Twain’s book (the ills of racism) is whitewashed out of it? The point of schooling is to bring kids up to higher thinking, not to lower education to their level.
If your high school kid is too squeamish to read the word ‘nigger’, then put them out of their misery. You’ve bred something worthless, discard it and start fresh.
I support a publisher’s right to put out a censored version of the book, I just don’t support the usage of it in the classroom.
I mean, nigga please.
*Please don’t embarrass yourself by saying, “You know, I really don’t like Huckleberry Finn.” You couldn’t lessen my estimation of you faster.