Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

What would Hitchens think?

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We’re still blessed (if he’ll pardon the phrase) to have Christopher Hitchens with us to offer withering scorn for those that would tamper with Huckleberry Finn. Unfortunately, in the words of St. Augustine (yes, I’m full of irony), “But not yet.” Instead we’re treated to a lecture on making tea.

It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to. It’s quite common to be served a cup or a pot of water, well off the boil, with the tea bags lying on an adjacent cold plate. Then comes the ridiculous business of pouring the tepid water, dunking the bag until some change in color occurs, and eventually finding some way of disposing of the resulting and dispiriting tampon surrogate. The drink itself is then best thrown away, though if swallowed, it will have about the same effect on morale as a reading of the memoirs of President James Earl Carter.

So, we’ll wait, and satisfy ourselves with the following from 2006:

The next day, I was teaching a class on Mark Twain at the New School in New York, explaining why it was that there had always been attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn. In the old days, this was because of its rough manners and alleged lack of refinement and moral uplift. But now, as I went on to say, it is because of the name of the character for whom Huck is willing to risk going to hell. Excuse me, but I did not refer to this character as “N-word Jim.” I have more respect for my graduate students than that. I suppose I could have just called him “Jim,” but that would somehow have been untrue to the spirit and shade of Samuel Clemens. And I would have thought of myself as a coward.

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