“Publisher Tinkers With Twain”
(New York Times, January 4, 2011)
“A new edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is missing something.
Throughout the book—219 times in all—the word “nigger” is replaced by “slave,” a substitution that was made by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama, which plans to release the edition in February… (The book also substitutes “Indian” for “injun.”)”
YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer [offensive to people who have not read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer]; but that ain't [offensive to proponents of standard English usage] no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly [offensive to Mr. Twain]. There was things which he stretched [offensive to persons injured by stretchy children’s toys, viz. “Stretch Armstrong” and their relatives and loved ones, persons unable to do Yoga], but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt [heteronormative, offensive to persons living without aunts] Polly, or the widow [anti-feminist; surely the widow is notable for something other than being a widow?], or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly—Tom's Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book [offensive to owners of the Amazon Kindle, or other e-reader devices], which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers [offensive to World War One field medics], as I said before.
Now the way that the book winds [offensive to owners of quartz and automatic watches] up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers [insensitive to the social forces that produce crime; reductive] hid in the cave [offensive to troglodytes], and it made us rich [class warfare]. We got six thousand dollars apiece—all gold [offensive to the economically disadvantaged; offensive to proponents and opponents of the gold standard, Glenn Beck, descendants of L. Frank Baum, metalworkers in the developing world, metal detector enthusiasts]. It was an awful sight [offensive to the blind] of money when it was piled [offensive to Americans living with piles] up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest [offensive to Americans affected by the financial crisis], and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round—more than a body [offensive to persons living with body-image dysmorphia, disembodied spirits] could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son [sexist], and allowed she would sivilize me [offensive to persons from traditional cultures, English grammarians and orthographers]; but it was rough living in the house all the time [offensive to homeless persons], considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways [offensive to regular and decent people]; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out [encourages truancy]. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again [offensive to the badly dressed, and to persons who have been injured by sugar-hogsheads, hogs, diabetics], and was free [inappropriate in a narrative that addresses slavery] and satisfied [offensive to the Greek mythological figure Tantalus]. But Tom Sawyer he hunted [violent; offensive to hunters and animal rights activists] me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable [offensive, encourages youth violence]. So I went back [offensive to persons with small buttocks who desire larger buttocks].
The widow she cried [offensive to Molly from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, who is unable to cry] over me [offensive to children and the height-challenged], and called me a poor lost lamb [Biblical allusion is offensive to non-Christians; also offensive to Christians], and she called me a lot of other names, too [insensitive to victims of childhood bullying], but she never meant no harm [offensive to persons named Harmony who do not use the diminutive “Harm”] by it. She put me in them new clothes [offensive to persons who cannot afford new clothes, [offensive to persons who cannot afford new clothes, persons living with vestiphobia] again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up [offensive to owners of children’s clothing stores, persons with disordered perspirations, persons who are locked in a cabinet]. Well, then, the old [ageist] thing commenced [offensive to Americans who are unable to attend their college or university commencement ceremonies for financial, health or logistic reasons] again. The widow rung a bell [offensive to the deaf, families without bells] for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table [culturally insensitive to persons who do not eat at tables or who eat while walking around like in that Hot Pockets commercial] you couldn't go right [offensive to left-handed and ambidextrous persons] to eating [offensive to persons living with bulimia], but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them,--that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better [offensive to observant Christians and bland cooks].
After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people [offensive to Jews, Christians, Muslims, necrophiliacs, Biblical scholars, present-day inhabitants of the Middle East, the bereaved, persons named Moses].
Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself [offensive to smokers, non-smokers, health advocates, orphans, snuff manufacturers, opponents of snuff manufacture].
Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now with a spelling-book [offensive to obese people, thin people, people with eating disorders, people with impaired vision, single women, the illiterate, dyslexic persons, advocates of non-standard spelling]. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then the widow made her ease up. I couldn't stood it much longer [offensive to seated persons who are unable to stand or do not wish to stand]. Then for an hour it was deadly [offensive to persons who have ingested lethal poisons] dull [offensive to itinerant knife-sharpeners], and I was fidgety [offensive to Americans living with ADHD]. Miss Watson [Offensive to Sherlock Holmes fans and to Sienna Miller] would say, "Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry;" and "Don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight;" and pretty soon she would say, "Don't gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry--why don't you try to behave?" [heteronormative, valorizes child abuse] Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there [egregious; valorizes sass]. She got mad [offensive to persons living with mental illness] then, but I didn't mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place [offensive to Satanists]. Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn't do no good [encourages dissimulation, offensive to atheists].
I've read a lot about this travesty, but Mr. Samsky, your take was brilliant. Mark Twain's having a laugh somewhere.
Surely a piece Mr. Twain himself would have enjoyed.