I haven't read anywhere near all of the deluge of posts on this subject, so
I apologize if the following remarks repeat what's already been said. My
recent play, Mark Twain Interruption, deals at some length with the question
of HF censorship, of course, but maybe it's worth repeating a thought or
two. Censorship comes round every ten years or so, in normal economic
times. Not just Twain, but Shakespeare and everybody else were banned from
our local (Panama City, Florida) schools in 1985. We sued. By 1995, the
school authorities had so nearly completely forgotten the embarrassment that
they were busy at the same stand, this time censoring a high school
newspaper that dared to advertise a gay rights support group. We sued
again. 2005 passed without any memorable censorious event, but the country
was by then firmly in thrall to the destruction of bigger fish, like Iraq,
habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions.
MT himself was familiar with this phenomenon and realized its value, sending
thank you notes to librarians who removed HF from their shelves. Sales
increase where free reading is curtailed, he knew.
But what we have here, as some have noted, is not censorship but
bowdlerization, and I agree with those who count it a higher crime. It's
one thing to say that a writer is too dangerous to be read; that's a
compliment. It's quite another to erase his work and substitute your own.
Who the hell are you?
Some are haunted by that schoolgirl who gets actually sick when reading the
word "nigger." I had her in mind in 2008 when I wrote the play. There,
Twain explains that his aim with HF is not to add to the burdens of
childhood. He wishes only to add to our store of "native novels," modest
works that tell a local story truly. If we have enough of these, he
believed, then we have our history, not captured, perhaps, but accessible.
Today, we have the comfortable pretense that we were not born in and of
racism. And because we have never faced it, we continue to practice it,
calling it something else. If we do not learn where we came from, then we
will never triumph over racism, nor even recognize it when it comes around
on its decidedly less than ten year cycle. And the words we actually used
That schoolgirl deserves good teachers, teachers who can help her to see
that what is making her sick is not Huck, but our own history. She is the
healthy one, for throwing up.
Michel L. Stone
STONE & SUTTON, P.A.
116 East Fourth Street
Panama City, Florida 32401
(850) 785-7094 fax
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