Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Horror of Horrors

A couple of days ago, I was replenishing the Banned and Challenged Book display at the library and saw a new copy of Tom Sawyer. I happily dropped it down, satisfied that a nicely illustrated paperback had a good chance of going out. Yesterday, I happened to pick it up and that's when I noticed that it was ABRIDGED!

I had a sudden flashback to my teaching career (as a student teacher) when I was told to give the children bits and pieces of Tom Sawyer with canned questions ready to mark from the key in the back of the book. The stories had had anything remotely offensive removed from them and the "n-word" was gone. I couldn't bear to read Tom Sawyer with the children without talking about the issue of racism. I tried to put the book into a context for them.

So, the dilemma for me now is: Should this "whitewashed" version, now found in the library, catalogued, and all ready to go be left in the collection. Although it indicates that it is abridged, Mark Twain's name is prominent on the cover and there is little indication of what the editor has done. Is this a true representation of the book written by Mark Twain?

I'm sure it was purchased by accident. Should it remain in the collection? What do you think?

Download the full, authentic version of Tom Sawyer at Project Gutenberg.

I believe the publisher of the "safe" book is Simon and Schuster and they have also issued a "safe" Curriculum Guide for Tom Sawyer, which interestingly enough deals with issues of depictions of masculinity and femininity, the tension between childhood and adulthood, and of diction and slang and how they can be clues to understanding the characters. No mention of race or colour is discussed.


pussreboots said...

I had a similar experience last week except that the book in question was Lorna Doone. Worst part -- the book claimed to be "complete and unabridged" but a quick comparison between the book and Google Books and I could see that the last two sentences on almost every paragraph had been lopped off to bring the page count down from 500 to 200.

I put the book aside and ordered a much nice (and unabridged) version.

Anonymous said...

not to get crazy melodramatic, but isn't that a bit like the louvre hanging a figleaf-covered nude painting, and still attributing it to the artist? of course it doesn't belong in the collection. the book is, as a whole, a product of its time and of its author. sanitizing it so that you get the story without the intellect...just wrong.