I still absolutely agree with Mr. Clemens - the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. And as the author of this quote, one can only imagine Mr. Clemens' irate, witty, and biting response to the current attack on his works.
This month, new editions of Mark Twain's classics: Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are being published. In these new editions, Twain's works are "cleaned up" by the removal of the words "nigger" and "injun." (These words have been replaced with "slave" and "Indian.")
This raises several questions:
1) Why do we read literature?
2) How should we view history?
3) Do we have an obligation to the author not to change his words?
I confess, I have something of a dread of others changing my words and then attributing them to me. I mean, they could make me say anything! *shudder*
Of course, editors change author's sacrosanct words all the time. But theoretically the author is still around to fight for the original or to offer a different alternative. Clearly that's not the case here.
-Enlightened updating of offensive material?
--Slanderous destruction of a masterpiece?
---Thoughtful rendering of a text to make it palatable to more readers?
----Dangerous rewriting of history?
-----Necessary removal of hateful, racist language?
------Weak and pandering attempt to render bland what was once living and real?
... what do you think?