Monday, September 25, 2006

Suggested reading for banned books week

Although he gets a lot of competition these days from J.D. Salinger, Judy Blume and J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain is probably the author that pisses off the book burners the most. His masterpiece "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" has been censored since it was first published in 1885 (originally people objected to the fact that pipe-smoking elementary-school dropout Huck was not a good role model, which goes to show that political correctness is nothing more than old wine in a new bottle) and still tops lists of most-challenged books year after year. Nowadays the main objection is its frequent use of the word "nigger" -- one of the two main characters is even named Nigger Jim. This is the perfect book to read during banned books week (or any time, of course) because it perfectly encapsulates how twisted and misguided the book burners are.
They say it's racist because it uses the "n word" even though they acknowledge that it is a historically-accurate depiction og the way people in Missouri talked at that time. I say there's no way in hell these people have ever read this book. No way. If anybody reads Huckleberry Finn and finds it to be racist, that person is an idiot and should be sterilized so as not to pass on idiotic genes. The truth is this book is a beautiful, eloquent plea for racial harmony and judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The part of the book where Huck decides he's going to go against everything he's ever been taught and save his black friend Jim even though he's sure it means he'll be sent to hell is one of the most powerful moments in all of literature. Nobody , not Martin Luther King, not Frederick Douglas, not Sojourner Truth, ever expressed the truth of our racial oneness half so well as Mark Twain in that passage.
And the book burners absolutely DO NOT GET IT!!!! They don't get it, and then they want to tell me I should be as narrow-minded, as clueless and oblivious and thin-skinned as they are, and they should be allowed to pick what MY children read -- and it makes me so mad I want to renounce my lifelong commitment to nonviolence and put my foot far enough up their ass to knock some sense into their foolish little minds.
But I digress.
Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." That was true when he said it in 1935 and it's still true now. If you've never read it, you need to read it -- and I know you will love it, it's hilarious, it's exciting, it's unforgettable. Please don't let the poisonous screeds of the book burners color your perception of this magnificent work of art.

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