COSTCO asks: “Should literary classics be ‘sanitized’?”

I’ve decided to start posting items that relate to my ‘fiction’ concerns. Came across this as I was getting a story out to work on. About a month ago I answered Costco’s debate-question in an e-mail the very day we received their magazine.

Click here for the online edition of the May 2011 print magazine and read the guest columnists’ ‘For’ and ‘Against’ first.

Below is my response to what, in fact, amounts to a censorship debate. It was such an important topic I had my now-graduated home school high-school senior write an SAT-type 5-paragraph essay taking a side.

Which side will you choose?


NO, NO, a thousand times, NO…literary classics should not be expurgated. I mean, ‘sanitized’ because…

…First a Professor came (and got paid) to selectively-edit a few works by Mark Twain and I didn’t speak up because I never liked Twain anyway and I believe in free-enterprise, then a Professor came for…

Of course “literary classics” (or common, everyday “dime novels” for that matter) shouldn’t be expurgated for the sake of today’s, yesterday’s, or tomorrow’s sensitivities. If an author’s original words are so damnable (I’m sure that word’s OK) you should skip his or her entire work. Hell (again, I’m certain that one’s OK, too), skip their entire body of work. Read and ‘study’ someone else.

There’s a powerful and poignant literary connection to all this book-banning business. Your featured expurgating-professor Gribben (who’s all for expurgating – partially perhaps because it’s a new revenue-stream?) might even appreciate it. Have you guessed which ‘classic’ I’m about to refer to?

Professor, you say it’s OK (right now, at least) for some of us to go out and “easily purchase” un-sanitized copies of these Twain novels – but what if after say a few years, when sufficient numbers have been ‘schooled’ soley with your politically-correct cleansed-versions then bump into an original and now enraged and en masse they (and you too?) decide the ‘offensive ones’ (that at that point might already have become ‘slightly less easily’ available) need to be made completely un-available? Are you, sir, going to coordinate the volunteers who’ll drive the ‘salamanders’ to the remaining (rogue/politically-incorrect) publishers and then around neighborhoods methodically collecting and then burning those newly-banned/officially-unavailable/‘offensive’ books?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m offended (and saddened), it seems, just about every time I pick up a “Chick-lit” novel. Too many thoroughly-modern girl-authors seem to feel the need to drop the “f-word” within the first two pages (no exaggeration)! But I would NEVER dream of demanding the publisher provide expurgated versions of the works to assuage my over-the-hill sensibilities. I do the right thing, the American thing…I simply STOP READING that particular book and cross that particular author off my list.

And all you book-banners out there really ought to do that very same thing with Mark Twain and whoever else ‘offends’ you. Quit reading them!



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