Publishers Weekly on a new edition of Huckleberry Finn that replaces a certain racially charged word with "slave":
"This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind," said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he's spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. "Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."
The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with "slave" when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the "n" word ("My mother said it's only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people") and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. "My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it."
Entertainment Weekly thinks this bowdlerization (and make no mistake; this is bowdlerization) is a good idea. I think it mutes the point of the novel. As Brendan Kiley pointed out in his great piece on Mark Twain a few weeks ago, Huckleberry Finn in some ways is "the novel in which Twain's evolution—not just from racism, but from all kinds of received opinion—is given the name Huck Finn." The novel is the story of Twain overcoming some of his own preconceived notions of race; you can feel his opinion change as the novel goes on and he falls in love with this character that he created. This professor doesn't understand that fact, and this makes me think that he is a shitty English professor.