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Sender: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2011 00:49:32 +0000
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From: Jerry Vorpahl <[log in to unmask]>
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I've been flip/flopping based on whichever missive I last read, but assuming Beard's quote is accurate, and I do, this pretty well puts the issue to bed for me. 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Edstrom " < jedstrom @ ILLINOISALUMNI .ORG> 
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 1:10:08 PM 
Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a defense 

I think no words are more powerful on this subject than those of Twain 
himself. Dan Beard, who illustrated several of Twain's books, 
remembered the author's reaction to revisions of Tom Sawyer Abroad by 
St. Nicholas Magazine (I quote here from "Note on the Text" in the 
University of California Press's authoritative edition of Tom Sawyer 
Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, c1982, 189-90): 

"When Mark read the proof he was exceedingly wroth and, entering the 
sanctum sanctorum , the holy of holies , or the editorial department of 
St. Nicholas, he shocked the gentle creatures and terrified the 
associate editors by exclaiming, 'Any editor to whom I submit my 
manuscripts has an undisputed right to delete anything to which he 
objects but' --and his brows knit as he cried,-- 'God Almighty himself has 
no right to put words in my mouth that I never used!'" 

<-----Original Message-----> 

From: Dan Davis [ davis . dan @ GMAIL .COM] 
Sent: 1/11/2011 5:31:52 PM 
Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a 

I didn't state any of that quoted text very well. Especially painful to 
reread is the footnote. What was written playfully (my understanding 
many of your posts was that Alan Gribben really IS an all-around good 
reads as a hefty chunk of petty sarcasm. For that I apologize and will 
to choose my words and phrasings more carefully in the future. 

So let me try this again: 

Dr. Gribben makes several key assertions in his introduction for which 
supporting data is offered. While I realize that an introduction is not 
dissertation, controversial assertions trigger higher expectations of 
accountability. Some examples: 

"As a notoriously commercial writer who watched for every opportunity to 
enlarge the mass market for his works, [Twain] presumably would have 
quick to adapt his language if he could have foreseen how today's 
recoil at racial slurs in a culturally altered country." This 
presumption is 
a long leap. References to actions or statements supporting the 
of such a response would lend it more credibility. 

"I invariably substituted the word "slave" for Twain's ubiquitous n-word 
whenever I read any passages aloud. Students and audience members seemed 
prefer this expedient, and I could detect a visible sense of relief each 
time, as though a nagging problem with the text had been addressed." The 
psychological and sociological factors driving these sorts of behaviors 
complex and influenced by many factors. Were these factors considered? A 
much larger question, though, is the basis upon which it was concluded 
an audience's apparent favorable reaction to the expurgation of an 
uncomfortable term is a valid basis upon which to make the decision to 
expurgate it. 

"Unquestionably both novels can be enjoyed just as deeply and 
if readers are not obliged to confront the n-word on so many pages." I'm 
aware of any evidence to support such a sweeping conclusion. I'm not 
sure it 
is even possible to design an experiment that could consistently and 
objectively measure the relative depth and authenticity of a reader's 
enjoyment across two versions of a text. Even if such could be devised, 
is doubtful that "enjoyment" can legitimately be considered the intent 
Twain's use of the n-word in the text. 

"Consequently in this edition I have translated each usage of the n-word 
read 'slave' instead, since the term 'slave' is closest in meaning and 
implication." This is patently and demonstrably false, yet it is 
as an obvious, universally accepted fact. The n-word is a very specific 
powerful epithet, while "slave" is a generic descriptor that, to my 
knowledge, has never been commonly used as an epithet (or even an 

Finally, my footnote was intended to stress the importance of addressing 
problematic aspects of this decision independent of any consideration of 
Alan Gribben's phenomenal credentials or his significant 
(After all, it's certainly not the first time the n-word substitution 
question has been raised.) In my experience, though, this Is an easy 
to say but very difficult to do, since we are all vulnerable to "appeal 
authority" logical fallacies, and many here know Dr. Gribben personally. 
felt it was important to point out that an appeal to Dr. Gribben's 
credentials, contributions, or character is not what I mean when I wish 
a defense of his position. 

* Any more detailed discussion of the significant dissimilarities 
these two words would be quite lengthy, but the bottom line is that the 
acceptable substitute for an epithet ("acceptable" meaning that there is 
minimal loss or distortion of meaning) is another epithet with similar 
semantic content (should one happen to exist). Obviously, such a 
substitution isn't likely to resolve the objections that prompted the 
for a substitute. A fairly succinct introduction to the relevant 
issues can be found in the first few sections of 'The Semantics of 
Epithets' ( http :// www . ub . edu / logosbw /bw5/abstracts/ Hom . pdf ) by 
Hom . 

Dan Davis 
Atlanta, GA 

-----Original Message----- 
From: Mark Twain Forum [ mailto :TWAIN-L@ YORKU .CA] On Behalf Of Kevin Mac 
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 1:47 PM 
Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a 

>> If anyone here honestly considers Gribben's position defensible*, I'd 
>> certainly like to see the argument laid out, point by point. 
>> Dan Davis 
>> Atlanta, GA 
>> * When I say "defensible" I mean supportable by means other than 
>> emotional references to Dr. Gribben's credentials, experience, 
>> reputation, or all-around good-guy personality. 


Al Gribben makes his case in the introduction to the book which is 
at the publisher's website. Point by point? Well, I don't know if you'll 
find any p'ints in his argument that make it any better'n any other 
argument. That's up to you, and you may agree or disagree. 

I pointed out that Al is one of us and deserves the same respect that 
else does. He's done more to advance Twain scholarship than most, and 
of the chatter about this new edition has been disrespectful. This is 
not an 
"emotional reference" to his "all-round good-guy personality" -- it's a 
for civility. 

Mac Donnell Rare Books 
9307 Glenlake Drive 
Austin TX 78730 
Member: ABAA , ILAB 
You may browse our books at 
www . macdonnellrarebooks .com 

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