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Culture Desk

Sanitized Huck Finn

By Steve Greenlee
Globe Staff / January 8, 2011

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“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’’ has been controversial almost since its publication in 1885, when the Boston Transcript reported that a Concord library official had derided Mark Twain’s novel as “trash.’’ Over the years the book has been banned from various public and school libraries, and occasionally it ignites another controversy, usually over its portrayal of African-Americans and its repeated use of a certain racial slur. (According to Publishers Weekly, that word appears in the book 219 times.)

Now comes a new edition from Alan Gribben, a Twain scholar at Auburn University in Alabama, that eliminates the offending word, replacing it with the word “slave.’’ Due next month from NewSouth Books, the revised novel is sure to generate just as much debate, presumably over whether it is appropriate to sanitize a classic work of literature.

“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,’’ Gribben told Publishers Weekly. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century. . . . I’m hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified. Already, one professor told me that he is very disappointed that I was involved in this.’’

‘Network’ wins online

If you’ve been wondering which film would be named best picture this year by the Online Film Critics Society — and who hasn’t? — you can stop wondering. The society — a group for writers who publish their movie reviews online — has decided that “The Social Network,’’ Aaron Sorkin’s pic about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was the best film of 2010. Colin Firth was named best actor for his portrayal of King George VI in “The King’s Speech,’’ and Natalie Portman was named best actress for her troubled ballerina in “The Black Swan.’’ Best animated feature? “Toy Story 3,’’ say the online critics. “How to Train Your Dragon’’ was robbed!