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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2011 / 4 Shevat, 5771

Leave Twain alone

By Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | While sorting through the perennial lip-pursing tempest about a certain word in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" - the "N-word," as we now say it - I turned for inspiration to the master himself.

"The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is . . . the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning," Twain wrote.

This is a familiar refrain among writers and editors, who toil in solitary agony - agonize in solitary toil? - over the perfect combinations of vowels and consonants. Finding just the right word, when it occurs, is the stuff of arias.

But what about eliminating just the "wrong" word? This is for the editor to urge and, in a righteous world, the writer to decide.

The latest affront on Twain's word selection, replacing that N-word with "slave," to protect the sensibilities of moderns is the work of a well-intentioned heretic. What was it someone or other said? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Then again, Twain himself recommended Heaven for the climate and Hell for the company.

While on Earth, let me add my voice to the chorus of those who, in the name of all that is hallowed, object to the alteration of literature for the benefit of illiterates. The fellow who edited the new Twain edition, Alan Gribben, isn't illiterate, of course, and therefore has no excuse. He's a professor of English at Auburn University. But he aims to increase the likelihood that non-readers will read more Twain if the author isn't so offensive.

No one would find this more offensive than Twain, who was, not least, reliably pithy about the small-minded and overly sensitive. And no one would argue that the word in question isn't emotionally charged and, in certain contexts, highly offensive. The issue here isn't whether the word is good or bad (I personally despise it), but whether one should rewrite another's literary work.

The simple answer is, no.

As even Gribben concedes, in Twain's remarkable work, his use of the word was both common to the times and an indictment of slavery. If readers can't understand this, then perhaps a teacher might enlighten them. The purpose of reading isn't just to run words past a pupil's pupils but to enhance understanding and reveal truth through what we call "teaching."

That some teachers and librarians find Twain offensive is regrettable. But let's be clear: These facts are an indictment of teachers and librarians who should find another line of work, not that Twain needs fixin'.

At what point, besides, do we stop with the red pencil? When will we have sanitized the library such that no one's feelings are hurt? And who gets to decide? These are not new questions, but they bear repeating as we seem to know less and less.

Excising the particular word in question would keep busybodies occupied for the foreseeable future. Other offending writers include such luminaries as William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Robert Penn Warren and Herman Melville, among countless others. Were these writers racist? We cannot read minds, but it seems to me that racism and the sort of worldly intelligence that inspires men and women to art are incompatible. Relatedly, the inexhaustibly quotable Twain wrote:

"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

More to the point, these writers selected each word painstakingly to create a world they envisioned as necessary to their purpose. That the world has changed, and our language with it, is no argument for rewriting or reconstructing the original creator's intent. To do so is both an assault on intellectual property that should be sacrosanct, and an insult to the intelligence of those whose minds we attempt to mold.

A teacher above all others should be ashamed.

Is the N-word problematic in a nation forever shackled to a racist, slave-owning past? Absolutely. But removing it from books won't eradicate it from history, nor alter the pain it provokes. Should we talk about the harm it did and still does? Certainly.

But selectively editing literature, like history, is denial by any other name. When it comes to denial and truth, as everyone knows, never the Twain shall meet.

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