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Hucking it up: Gene Weingarten gives literary classics a makeover

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, February 6, 2011; W36

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!

FBI Agent Neville Flynn: I'm gradually going to be replacing black men in all movies made since Sidney Poitier retired.

***

Hamlet:

"To be or not to be, that is the question -- but only hypothetically, for we must recognize that suicide is an irrational response to feelings of emotional isolation, which should be confronted promptly through counseling by a licensed professional."

***

Poetry:

Say, I like foods that are low in hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids and contain sodium in quantities of less than a milligram!

I do, I like them, Sam-I-Am!

***

Fairy tales:

Cinderella's stepmom has to be really mean to her own daughters, too, so as to not demonize steprelationships in blended families. Also, the slipper can't be glass, which is dangerous. Also, it has to fit only Cinderella not because it is small -- which is insensitive to a larger-boned aesthetic -- but because it was custom-made for Cinderella, to accommodate a huge bunion. Which is nothing to be embarrassed about.

***

Re-recordings:

"She takes, just like a person of either sex.

"Yes, she does,

"And she makes love, just like a person of either sex or the transgendered, whether pre- or post-operative. ...

"Yes, she does

"And she aches, just like a person of either sex,

"But at times her coping mechanisms fail her, for which she should not be infantilized or disrespected. ..."

***

Extreme cases, of course, might call for extreme remedies.

Tropic of Cancer

By Henry Miller

The End

***

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com. He's also been busy writing about the Chevy Volt and Dan Snyder.

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