Sunday, January 16, 2011

Times Editorial Suggests Huck go to College

An Editorial in the New York Times written  by a  novelist suggests that Huckleberry Finn with it's Nword pedagogy hit the road and go to college. Her rational is one that African American students could not decipher the onslaught of NWord idioms and that the racism of the nineteenth century to the IPhone hip hop generation just simply would not compute nor should it. African American students should wait until they get older and by the time they are in college they will be able to decipher literary intent from out and out racism or at least they would understand verisimilitude and all it's connotations. This is idiocy.

Surprising to hear a writer sign on to this kind of have it your way literature. I would like my Huck Finn sans Nword and hold the mayo and any other characters that smack of prejudice. I hope her novels are as ubiquitous in their appeal as cable television where there is a channel for every viewer. It would seem the essence of literature must again bow to the fatuous demands of Twain scholars and novelists who write politically correct essays for the Times. What is more PC than saying yes this is offensive, lets hold off until the laboratory of college where the adults can dissect this ante-bellum sickness.

This is exactly the type of thinking that got the scholar revved up enough to think that because we run around with smart phones and IPADs that we can just delete the offensive material from literature and serve it up in the same way we download a tune for ninety nine cents. The novelist brings up the fact that African Americans hearing the same NWord spoken in their music will not be offended as much by the silent printed word of Mr. Twain. That it is quite fine for their contemporaries to sing the Nword, rap it, because this has been sanctioned, but the repetitive hurtful rants of Huckleberry Finn is just really a burlesque show of racist minstrels and white people whooping it up. Rubbish.

To the novelist who wrote this editorial, I would simply say this. Literature stands. Period. If thy book offends thee pluck it out does not apply to art. You should know this. If a high school decides not to teach Huckleberry Finn then so be it, but that is a disservice to the student. Literature is not about our time. It is not about our twenty first sensibility. It is about saying what cannot be said otherwise. Literature defines things we cannot and brings it down to us through the ages. It is an intellectual exercise that informs the same way a painting or watching a great ballet performance or music does. There is something there we cannot lay our finger on, yet it speaks to us.

To say that African American High school Students cannot handle Huckleberry Finn or until college is demeaning to them. Worse, it cheats the students from the literary experience of reading the first modern American novel. Literature should not be held hostage to the winds of contemporary taste.
Rocket Man will blast off in February

Books by William Hazelgrove