Many of you may have read of the kerfluffle over the recent edits of Roald Dahl’s books by his publisher, Puffin Books. Puffin is an imprint of Penguin/Random House.
If you haven’t, I’ll boil it down for you. Puffin, in an effort to keep his books
sterile and flavorless inclusive to modern readers, hired a bunch of humorless scolds and censors sensitivity readers to cleanse Dahl’s works of language they deem icky to people with small minds offensive and non-inclusive to young readers of today. The result is crap like this:
In the new edition of “Witches,” a supernatural female posing as an ordinary woman may be working as a “top scientist or running a business” instead of as a “cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.”
The word “black” was removed from the description of the terrible tractors in 1970s “The Fabulous Mr. Fox.” The machines are now simply “murderous, brutal-looking monsters.”
Kee. Riced. All. My. Tea.
Do we really want our children so Goddamned sensitive that they can’t read books written sixty years ago without parsing it for language we wouldn’t use today? For God’s sake, don’t let them watch Blazing Saddles or All In the Family. One whiff of Archie Bunker or the humor of Mel Brooks and we’d have one nationwide mass aneurysm, leaving an entire generation of Americans left with no mental capacity to understand satire, limited reading comprehension, and an overwhelming desire to censor anything their damaged brains can’t comprehend. They’d be fit to be only politicians (left or right-leaning. Liberals have no monopoly on trying to suppress ideas they don’t like. Conservatives do it too.) or school administrators or
woke assholes sensitivity readers.
Oh, wait… crap, that’s already happened.
Let writers write, and let readers decide what is offensive. If you didn’t like a book, simply don’t read any more of that author’s work. It’s that simple.
Years ago, when I was naive enough to be flattered by an offer by a major traditional publisher, I took it. Immediately, they gutted my work, removing almost six chapters of Life, Death and Everything In Between that they deemed “too dark” for their readers. Mind you, this was a division devoted to publishing medical memoirs, presumably with a reader base of medical professionals.
The book reviews were almost overwhelmingly positive. I say almost, because a small percentage of readers said, in effect, “it seems like there are vital passages missing from this book.”
When they remaindered my books and reverted the rights back to me, I republished the book independently with the original material, keeping the only thing they did right: the revision of my original title. I’ve sold more copies of En Route: A Paramedic’s Stories of Life, Death and Everything In Between than Prentice Hall ever did.
You can’t bubblewrap our children’s minds, people. Vigorously sanitizing what they watch, hear and read won’t be any better for their intellectual and mental health than vigorously sanitizing their environment has been for their physical health.
Leave the old books alone. Instead, explain to your children the context of the books you give them to read. Explain parody and satire. Rather than teach them to be aghast at “Nigger Jim” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, point out that Jim was strong, loyal and wise, and most of the white characters were ignorant and hateful buffoons. Those portrayals are as an effective indictment against racism and slavery as any heavy-handed lesson you’ll teach. Teach them understanding and context rather than to be triggered by a few outdated words.
That is, if you possess the reading comprehension and wisdom necessary to see it. We’re rapidly producing a generation of adults who don’t.