“`Huckleberry Finn’ and the use of `nigger’ is the ultimate teachable moment in American literature,” Powers says. “It cries out for conversation between teachers and students. It cries out for context.”
The book’s editor, Twain scholar Alan Gribben, writes in the introduction that he had taught Twain’s work for years and that students were relieved when he chose not to recite any troubling words. He said softening the language would bring new readers and described Twain as “a notoriously commercial writer who watched for every opportunity to enlarge the mass market for his works.
“He presumably would have been quick to adapt his language if he could have foreseen how today’s audiences recoil at racial slurs in a culturally altered country,” Gribben writes.
“That is completely disingenuous,” adds mystery novelist Walter Mosley, who wrote an introduction for a book of Twain detective stories. “They can say, `Well, Mark Twain liked to make a buck.’ But he’s not making anything out of this.”
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