Hucking it up: Gene Weingarten gives literary classics a makeover

Below the Beltway
(Eric Shansby)
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Were you as bothered as I was by all the pseudo-intellectual whining over a book publisher's decision to issue a new version of "Huckleberry Finn" with the n-words deleted? I actually like the idea. As far as I am concerned, this sort of sensitive editing should be applied to other works of fiction, as well, to bring them more in line with contemporary standards of taste and propriety.

Some of these changes are long overdue and easy to accomplish, and should occasion no controversy at all. Often a simple change in title will be enough to remove a needlessly distasteful element: e.g., "To Annoy a Mockingbird."

Also, there is no reason why Lolita has to be 12 years old. Just make her 27 and fully self-actualized. End of problem.

Other needed changes are subtler and more complex. I've jotted down a few notes.

The Merchant of Venice:

After every anti-Semitic line about Shylock, someone needs to say something equally hurtful about an Episcopalian.

***

Movie remake:

FBI Agent Neville Flynn: I am somewhat vexed at the presence of snakes on this aircraft!

Passenger: Me, too. Wait, you're not Samuel L. Jackson!

FBI Agent Neville Flynn: I am Morgan Freeman. This movie has been recast to rectify the regrettable characterization of a black man as profane, hot-tempered and violent.

Passenger: Good idea!


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