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Mike Stone <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 12 Jan 2011 22:10:21 -0600
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-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Twain Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of James Edstrom
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 3:10 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Editorial by Ron Powers on the NewSouth HF; a request for a

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 [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 1/11/2011 5:31:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
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' ( by

Dan Davis 
Atlanta, GA 

-----Original Message----- 
From: Mark Twain Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kevin Mac 
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 1:47 PM 
To: [log in to unmask] 
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 

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