No sir. You cant. Cant do it. The N-WORD is as much a part of Huckleberry Finn as the Mississippi or Jim or Huck or the Duke or the King or the Widow or his drunken no good father. You can not take a piece out of the painting just because you don't like the color. Nor can you take a word from the book because you don't like the word. You just can't do it because you happen to be a Twain scholar (so called) in the year of our Lord 2011 and think that you have the right to tinker with someone else's book because you want high school students to read it. You dont' own that right and the faster you are dust the better.
Mr. Twain did not prefer the word slave over his colloquialism. It is not a matter of offence. Literature or art or books do not bow to the latest PC movement. If it did we would have no art, no books, no music. For literature cannot be made to bow to some man's idea he knows more than the author. He don't. He never did. He never will. The author made the book and it is stone for better or worse. Forget that the offending word now comes out nine year olds IPOD. It does. I have heard it more than once. Or that our most famous rappers broadcast that word the way you would say hello now. Forget all that. You do not tinker with a man's book who is not around to defend it.
But if Mr. Twain were here he would surely laugh and then he would be angry as hell. He cared about his words so much that in his autobiography he took out the commas and exclamation marks and little inflections his typist had put in for flow. In my second novel Tobacco Sticks I too used the NWORD. A man who listened to one of my readings with repetitive NWORDS came up to me at the end. I was very nervous as he was an African American. He nodded to me and said I liked your reading. Now would he have liked it more if I had taken out the offending words? Should I care that he liked it? Or should a book stand as written regardless of the consequences?
Sad to say we will pass on and Huckleberry Finn will persevere. Our all important ultra self conscious sensibilities will pass on too. And mabye some boy or girl somewhere will pick up Mr. Twain's book or some adult and he or she will read it and laugh and be entertained and maybe offended and maybe cry and maybe throw the book down in disgust. But he or she should not be restricted from reading the book as it was written. Censorship of any kind is an insult to all and the gravest of insults to Mr. Twain's book. You just can't have your cake and eat it too. The man whose biography is selling so many copies the press cannot keep up would not condone such a bastardization. You just can't take the NWORD out of the Huckleberry and still have Huckleberry Finn. It just don't work that-a-way.
Rocket Man should roll out this month