Confessions of an English Major

Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011, at 1:09 PM
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    Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors. Twains social commentary on America is always very interesting. I'm curious what your thoughts were on the recent decision to censor Huckleberry Finn?

    I've read a bit from a number of the other authors as well. However, I'm always leery of checking out "classics" having read Great Expectations three times in my life, while despising every minute of it. I've discovered one has to watch out for them.

    -- Posted by Damu on Sat, Feb 19, 2011, at 6:50 PM
  • Damu, I only vaguely remember reading Twain my sophomore year of high school. I can't remember if it was Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Anyway, I suspect it was one of those madatory readings that I skimmed, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. My opinion is more one of an anti-censorship in general. I think it insults the intelligence of our teachers and students to assume that we have to sanitize literature to make it less offensive. We should give our teachers enough credit to set up the historical reference behind the language in the literature. We can be sensitive to the feelings of students and allow for some intelligent class discussion without scrubbing books of anything that could possibly offensive. I remember reading Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and being particularly upset by some misogynist dialogue. But when you know her background of anthropological research, you realize that she didn't allow herself to get in the way of the story by idealizing her characters. Scrub the book of the offensive language and you miss out on an opportunity to glimpse history.

    Incidentally, LibriVox has a podcast version of Huckleberry Finn. May have to add that one to my list of guilty titles I have not yet read (or don't remember reading, anyway).

    -- Posted by saveryhinze on Sun, Feb 20, 2011, at 4:50 PM
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    Excellent answer. Taking away the words used also detract from the power of the prose. Mr. Twain new full well what the words he used meant, and utilized them to illustrate a very valid point.

    -- Posted by Damu on Sun, Feb 20, 2011, at 4:57 PM
  • Forgot to mention: the January 21st issue of Entertainment Weekly has a blurb about other books that have been "laundered." Shakespeare was scrubbed by Thomas Bowdler in 1818. In 1883, the King James Bible was made "more family-friendly" by Noah Webster. In 1967, the anti-censorship book "Fahrenheit 451" was censored for high school. To quote EW's Keith Staskiewicz, "451 must be the temperature at which irony burns."

    -- Posted by saveryhinze on Sun, Feb 20, 2011, at 4:58 PM
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    I recall hearing the classics described as "books everyone talks about but nobody has read". Not too far off the mark sometimes.

    I enjoyed Mark Twain and read half dozen of his books.

    One winter I read half dozen Ernest Hemingway books, and by the time I was done, I could readily understand why he left the plant chewing on the business end of his shotgun. They were all pretty bleak without a happy ending in any of them. If you want the blues really bad, read his stuff.

    I read all the John Steinbeck books I could find in college. I think East of Eden was the best. The Pearl was interesting and somewhat profound. Of Mice and Men was sad, as was Grapes of Wrath.

    I read Thoreau's On Walden Pond. That was a tough slog; the sentences were like 500 words. I had to reread a lot since I forgot where the sentence started by its end. His observations on nature were wonderful and very detailed however and I learned some from those.

    Did Hawthorne write The Scarlet Letter. If so, I read that in college and still think about elements of that story.

    I like your articles. Thanks.

    -- Posted by Boomer62 on Thu, Feb 24, 2011, at 6:32 PM
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    Oh, I did read Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. I thought it was one of the silliest books I ever read. I finished it without discovering anything worthwile.

    -- Posted by Boomer62 on Thu, Feb 24, 2011, at 6:34 PM
  • Thanks, Boomer62!

    Grapes of Wrath is another one on my guilt list that I've been meaning to read, but can't mentally prepare myself for something everyone says is sad. Why must so many classics be such downers? I wish Maya Angelou had made the list, because at least I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings had some victories in the end--along with all the tear-jerking moments in the middle.

    -- Posted by saveryhinze on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 4:53 PM
  • I have read "the red pony" my steinbeck. It was short and easy. I have read some Frost poems but I preferred the modernist like ezra pound and t.s. elliot.

    -- Posted by president obama on Fri, Feb 25, 2011, at 8:37 PM
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