Saturday, January 8, 2011


The following is an editorial.

From time to time, events happens that require more space than what our regular feature THE WEEK IN REVIEW allows coverage for, hence taking a closer look at specific events here.
Both items this time share the common theme: "Do The Right Thing", as we discuss editing Mark Twain and 'The Golden Voice'.

*New South Books is planning a new edition of Mark Twain's classics Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, replacing the offensive words of the original text with more sociably acceptable ones.
According to the company's website ( they will be reuniting the two novels under one volume, reinstating a passage that was originally intended for that book, but instead was used within Twain's Life On The Mississippi, and thus was omitted by the original publisher to avoid duplication.
And the offensive 'N' and 'I' words in regards to two characters will be replaced throughout, for they are now referred to as Slave Jim and Indian Joe within the text. The use of these offensive words has kept the books out of a lot of schools (and libraries?) over the years.

While there is no complaints about publishing the two novels together, which has been done before, one must wonder about the editing.
While the addition of the originally deleted passage is a minor quibble at best, the more major change in regards to the word substitution raises some issues and concerns.
Thankfully we live in more enlightened times, so those 'N' and 'I' words are no longer used. In the case of the latter, since it was the younger characters that used it most of the time, I always thought the 'I' word was just Twain being true to the personas of Tom and Huck at the time.
Surely a foreword before the first novel, or a footnote the first time each word appears, about the differences in society between then and now would be more appropriate than editing the novels outright.

This story has already gotten plenty of media attention, which in itself is a good thing, for people are talking about the issues and the books themselves.
Yet should such classics be edited? For in the end, that is basically what is going on. Mark Twain is no longer available to speak for himself, but by all accounts was against slavery, thus Tom and Huck trying to get Jim North to freedom.
I think readers are a lot more astute than the general public and "concerned citizens" give them credit for. While these books are not for the very young, those around the ages of the title characters within the stories and older will accept the original texts as a product of their times and recognize them as the literary classics they are today.

I personally left a comment on the New South website, but it has yet to be published. All the replies to their announcement appear to be from other sources covering their plans. Go figure.

*Ted Williams (no known relation to the famous American baseball player) became a video sensation after an interview the homeless man gave to a local Columbus, Ohio reporter was downloaded on to
Since then, Williams has been given several announcing job offers based upon "his golden voice" and was recently reunited with his 92 year old mother in New York.

While not every instance will have 'miraclous' or 'wonderful' results like this, it's nice to see that even in these troubled times, efforts are still being made to help those in need.

Lee Houston, Junior
Editor-In-Chief: The Free Choice E-zine.

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