Fulminations of a Geezer in training:

I just read a post on a blog (that's what I do for fun because the world is my luscious oyster) that quoted at length the first page of Robert Penn Warren's fantastipiece All the King's Men. One problem, though: it edited out the word "nigger." Twice, if memory serves.

This, I think, is as good a time as any (it's the most egregious example of editing, because of the acknowledged strength of the work, and the most forgivable example of editing because of the history of the word being edited) to lay down some law--but first I should note, to be fair: at least he mentioned that the selection had been edited for content.

Now--the law to be laid down is this: it's perfectly ok, by the rules that govern our society, for the citer of a work to change the words of a novel if he SAYS he's doing so--heck, in some cases, it's ok to appropriate them as his own even if he doesn't say he's doing so. After all--good poets borrow; great poets steal. BUT CAVEAT EMPTOR: your version has to be better. If your version (as this was) is just a spineless, fearful, little scratching-out of something you're terrified might hurt someone's feelings (because a symptom of the racist in you clawing its way to the surface is that you jerk your knees against apparent instances of racism in others) then you, sir, madam, or both, are a tool and should be put back on your nail in the shed, where you belong, and the light turned out around you. Censorship, even of something you perceive as ignorant, is itself a manifestation of ignorance; and ignorance is prejudice; and prejudice, while often unavoidable, is not a worthy characteristic of published material, even dinky online publishing.
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