icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Friend of Frank
I have thoughts. Sometimes I share them. Here's where. Enjoy! --Frank S. Joseph, Author
Become a Friend of Frank now for appearances, updates and more. You may opt out at any time, no questions asked, and we never share contact info except with your permission. See "Quick Links" (below right).

Are Editors Evil? Part II

       [In Part I, I chewed on this question
       without resolving it. In Part II ...
       ... some answers.]
Dear Friend of Frank,

   I've held many editor jobs in my working life, starting with proofreader when I was in high school and my buddies were bagging groceries. (I bagged groceries too. I lasted one day, at the end of which I knew shoulder pain I'd never imagined.)

   At 27, I was Night City Editor in the Chicago bureau of The Associated Press, a grand title for a young pup. During the Watergate years I was an editor at The Washington Post, one of a long string of folks massaging the Pulitzer-bound copy of Woodward & Bernstein. Then I left Big Journalism to become editor-in-chief of a newsletter publishing company; then held that same title with a newsletter company I co-founded; and finally held the title in my own publishing company. (I was chief cook and bottle washer too.)
   All along, I'd rather have been a reporter/writer.
   I was a reporter, a damn good one if I say so myself. Damn good writer too. Trouble was, I was also no slouch as an editor. I kept getting offered the title, always with more money and more authority. Hard to turn down.

   When I finally jumped ship, leaving The Mighty Washington Post for a newsletter publisher with six employees and offices above a furniture store, it was due to a) more money – lots more money, b) great title, editor-in-chief, c) boss authority, d) a company devoted to kick-ass journalism, and e) the clincher: I'd still be a reporter-writer.

   (I may have been kidding myself on this point. It was a small company, albeit an extremely successful one. There were two reporters plus myself, challenged to fill eight pages a week with kick-ass stories. I'd have had to be a reporter regardless.)

   Once I adapted to the limitations, however -– an audience in the thousands vs. an audience of the entire world; working in a niche, petroleum marketing, about which I knew nothing (I could barely spell 'gasoline' at first) -– I thrived. Niches can be cozy.

The Present Moment

   I've dwelt on the journalism model because I've spent so much of my working life there. Now I'm in the literary world and it's different. There are no runny-nosed cub reporters. Authors, it's assumed, know what they're doing. Editors really are there to elicit the best.
   Which brings me to TouchPoint Press, which is to bring out my "Chicago Trilogy" next year. We've finished editing two of the three Trilogy novels, To Do Justice (#3) and To Love Mercy (#1). So far I've never met nor spoken to my editor.
It's been great.

   Remember my friend Richard from Part I? Richard argued that editors are out to crush your spirit and your dreams. My TouchPoint editor, Mallory Matthews, is not a Richard nightmare. She is an author's dream.

   She edits with a light touch: if it ain't broke, she doesn't fix it. But there's nothing so good it can't be made better. If she spots something problematic, she doesn't make the change, she proposes it. If I don't understand, she explains. If I don't agree, we discuss. Sometimes it's substantive. More often it's small stuff, down to the comma level. Commas are important. We both think so.


   Eventually we resolve. Sometimes she prevails, sometimes I do, but nobody "wins" because it isn't a contest of wills. The relationship is entirely via email but that matters not. We're working with the same goal: to make the good better.

   It could easily have been otherwise.

   Put yourself in my position: A new author with an unknown-quantity publisher. Assignment to an editor I've never met, never talked to, whose qualifications I don't know, nor even where she's located.* Yet she has all the power. I'm scared.

          *The Norfolk VA area as it happens

   But we start out on just the right foot. She likes my novels. A lot. Hey, I'm cooked. Stick a fork in me.

  It could easily have been otherwise. My friend Richard isn't wrong, you know. Some editors are hounds from hell. One of my National Journal editors was a very sadist. He took grim pleasure in humiliating me, to a point that I found myself fantasizing about murdering him.

   But I confess it: I have been such an editor myself.

   OK, I was young. I'd had drill-sergeant role models of my own. I was under the usual pressures to keep the work moving. And over time I'd had some bozos writing for me, four of whom I fired.

   So I emulated my drill-sergeant role models. I came down on copy with my elbows. I chastised. I made fun of. I embarrassed and shamed.

   Shame on me.

   The drill-sergeant model may be OK with hatchling journalists, I've come to see, but not with professionals. They've paid dues of their own. They have egos too. They deserve respect.

   Besides, it works better.

Frank S Joseph
Author, the Chicago Trilogy [forthcoming from TouchPoint Press]
P.S. To Love Mercy, the first novel of the Chicago Trilogy, was published previously by Mid Atlantic Highlands (2006). I'd like to share this five-star review of the 2006 edition just posted on Goodreads by Jennifer Rupp, who writes sexy Highland romances under the pen name Jennifer Trethewey:

Jennifer Rupp rated a book it was amazing

To Love Mercy
by Frank S. Joseph
Want to Read

Rate this book
1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars3 of 5 stars4 of 5 stars5 of 5 stars
In a time when even having a discussion about race can erupt into controversy, this gentle but forthright story reminds us that we are not born with prejudice, we learn it. From chapter one, the reader is plunged into the deep end of Chicago during an era many readers won't remember, but will picture clearly because of the author's skill and because, ultimately, we are not all that different as people. Like the Old and the New Testament, moments of love and beauty temper the ugliness and fear of the real world. We may never achieve the equality and freedom the tenets of our constitution profess, but we can do more than hope. We can strive to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. I received a signed copy of To Love Mercy from the author, Frank S. Joseph. I wanted to share the story, but I loved the book so much, I wanted to keep it for myself. So, I bought another copy to give to a friend and I recommend To Love Mercy to you. Read it with love.

P.P.S. Would you like to write a review too? I still have a limited number of copies of the 2006 edition on hand. Drop me a request at frank@frankjoseph.com. Be sure to include your postal mailing address.


Copyright © 2021, Frank S Joseph Author. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
5617 Warwick Pl., Chevy Chase MD 20815-5503 (USA)

Get this blog in your in-box! Become a Friend of Frank now for publication news, offers and updates. Send your request to frank@frankjoseph.com. You may opt off any time, no questions asked.

Be the first to comment

Are Editors Evil? Part I

Dear Friend of Frank,
   "If my experience is any guide," writes my pal Richard, "editors are there to kill you."

   And he's just warming up.

   Referring to my TouchPoint Press editor, Richard goes on:

   "Warning: Like all editors, she will be ruthless and uncaring and imperious, with no imagination or sympathy or kindness, with blinkered vision and a hard heart. Given half a chance, she will kill the best things you write. Kill them and be oblivious to what she is doing. Your heartfelt pleas will avail you nothing. She will be deaf and dumb and stupid. She will slash and burn. Wear a hazmat suit in her presence and carry a flame-thrower."

Sylvester Stallone, doing his thing.


   Richard doesn't know my TouchPoint editor, not even her name. He has never met her, never spoken nor emailed nor texted nor communicated with her in any fashion. He's just having fun here.

   It's serious fun though. Richard knows whereof he speaks. During an illustrious career, he wrote editorials for the Chicago Sun-Times, Des Moines Register and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, much of the time from Washington DC bureaus. His copy went through many hands.

   So has mine. I was a reporter,  writer and, yes, editor at many news organizations including The Associated Press, the Washington Post and my own publishing companies. I'm retired now, writing novels, and once again I am working with an editor at TouchPoint, which will issue my "Chicago Trilogy" novels sometime next year. I've been thinking a lot about the editing process, thoughts I'd like to share.

Is Richard Right?

   Resolved: Editors are sons-of-bitches, out to do you dirt. Let's start there.

      Richard's editor, hard at work.
   The obvious answer ought to be no. Why would they? Assuming you are the writer/reporter/author, isn't the editor's interest the same as yours: to help your copy sing?

   The actual answer is no/yes/maybe/it depends.

   Editors can be lots of things: facilitators, polishers, killers; acquirers, rejecters; spell-checkers and grammarians; cops; bosses with bosses of their own; human beings.

   That last is where the fun starts.

   Because in this relationship, that only-human editor has all the power, at least at the outset. And you know how humans can be when you give them unlimited power.

   Consider the roles. Assume you're the writer/reporter/author. The editor's job is to improve your work. That's problematic right there because your work already is ... perfect. I mean, it is, right?

   Now assume you are the editor. You have these piss-ant writers tugging at your skirts. One or two know what they're doing but the rest are bozos. You are under pressure yourself – to keep things moving, to send good stuff up the line – and you've been doing this long enough to know that your judgment is better than the average writer, your experience deeper, and probably you're a better writer too. Not to mention smarter.

   You see the problem.

   Two problems actually.

·       The writer's problem is humility. Everything can be improved. This is something writers learn over the years ... or don't. Looking at you, Richard.
·       The editor's problem is humanity. Being a drill sergeant may work in the military, where it's all yessir and nossir, and it can be satisfying to persons with ego issues. But it doesn't work so well in creative workplaces, where other egos may be fragile too and work products often are viewed the way a mother views her newborn.

   After all, this relationship really is – or ought to be – about improving things. That's the editor's role. He* is there to put his judgment, experience, talent and brains to work helping the good to become better.

   *For simplicity's sake, I'll use "he" going forward instead of "he/she/they."

What Editors Do

   There are a lot of ways to help the good become better.

   At the base level, there's copy editing and proofreading. Proofreaders check spelling and grammar; copy editors do that and more. A good copy editor sends a clumsy locution back to the author or rewrites it himself; catches 'missed leads,' e.g. where the story starts in the wrong place, and advises (or imposes) improvement; identifies potential legal liabilities such as libel; and sometimes kills stories outright.

   Moving up, there are boss editors. In a journalistic setting they have titles like foreign editor, national editor, city editor. They make assignments, generate story ideas, deploy manpower, hire and fire, deal with emergencies (there are always emergencies), go to bat for their people or discipline them. They're drill sergeants, coaches, cheerleaders, mentors, confessors. They can even friends.

   Above them are big-boss editors with titles like managing editor, executive editor, or just plain Editor with a capital E. They set policy and direction. They may hire and fire. The buck stops with them.

   There are other sorts of editors. Acquisitions editors acquire stories and books and cultivate writers. Celebrity editors do god-knows-what but they do it awfully well, viz. the New Yorker under Tina Brown and now David Remnick.

   And the lines aren't always clear. Book editor Maxwell Perkins, legend has it, discovered Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Thomas Wolfe, then may have rewritten Wolfe's work. The celebrated minimalist author Raymond Carver didn't start out all that minimalist-y, the story goes; his editor Gordon Lish allegedly invented and imposed the style that made Carver famous.

   Next: How it's gone for me.

Frank S. Joseph, author, the Chicago Trilogy

P.S. I have a new website! Visit www.frankjoseph.com for the latest news on forthcoming publication of the entire Trilogy from TouchPoint Press.

P.P.S. And don't forget to use my new email address going forward. It's frank@frankjoseph.com.


Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Frank Joseph, Author

5617 Warwick Pl.

Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503


Be the first to comment


Dear Friend of Frank,


   News comes that MacKenzie Scott, ex of Jeff Bezos, can't give her money away fast enough. Despite dropping $2.74 billion the other day, she keeps getting richer.


   What a problem to have.


   No need to remind you that Ms. Scott's former husband is the genius behind, and principal proprietor of, Amazon.com. He is also the world's richest man with a fortune estimated at $177 billion, mostly in Amazon stock.


   Amazon's market value is $1.7 trillion. That's trillion with a T.


   In 2019, Ms. Scott walked away from the marriage with 4% of Amazon's stock, trading at some $2,000 a share at the end of that year. Amazon's stock is trading at $3,403.49 as I write these words, so do the math.


   But back to Ms. Scott who, with a net worth of $57 billion her ownself, is the third wealthiest woman in the world. She has pledged to give it away "until the safe is empty." I'd say she's not trying hard enough.


   She is trying hard though. This latest tranche went to places that maybe never saw a handout of any sort, let alone googobs in the $10-million-and-up range. Places like the College of the Desert, a community college in Palm Desert CA with about 12,500 students, mostly part-time. I had to look that one up.


   I also had to look up William Rainey Harper College and Kennedy-King College, both of which turn out to be in or near my hometown of Chicago.


   Yet all is not peaches and cream for MacKenzie Bezos. She caught flak from one Maribel Morey, founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences. "MacKenzie Scott is a private citizen but she is playing a public role," Ms. Morey was quoted in today's New York Times, which is where I get most of the facts for this rant (Wikipedia too plus good old Doctor Google). "Much as a judge has to explain their [sic] logic, or a senator has to answer to their constituents [sic, sic], a philanthropist owes it to the public to explain how and why they [sic! sic! sic!] came to their [uh, you know] decisions."


   Well, now.


   A judge is an elected or appointed public servant, accountable to his or her constituents. Same for a senator. MacKenzie Scott is a successful novelist, ex-wife of the world's richest (and baldest) man, and stone babe. According to common courtesy, not to mention the Iron Law of Beauty, she doesn't need to explain herself at all.


MacKenzie Scott, stone babe (r.), and Baldy (l.). Source: Kubilive.com.


   No. What MacKenzie Scott is, is John Beresford Tipton, "The Millionaire."

Remember "The Millionaire"? Wonderful show. Ran on CBS from 1955 to 1960. Every week the fabulously wealthy Tipton would give away a million smackeroos ($9.66 million in 2020 dollars) to some totally unsuspecting but immensely telegenic and deserving individual or individuals.



Poster for "The Millionaire." Source: IMDB.com.


   You saw how the money affected their lives (spoiler: usually heartwarmingly) but you never saw Tipton. Heard his voice, saw his arm hand the $1 million check to his executive secretary to deliver, that was it. Like the College of the Desert, which I daresay never saw MacKenzie Scott coming.


   It is true that MacKenzie Scott hasn't been going by the book. Unlike Bill and Melinda Gates, The Times notes, she doesn't have her own foundation, saving her the bother of a big staff and a lot of stuff to fill out. She simply writes a blog post on Medium giving a hint as to why she's doing what she's doing, then does it.


   This time she gave lots and lots of money to obscure two-year colleges like That of the Desert, as well as bigger pops ($40 million) to more recognizable but ill-endowed higher-eds such as the University of Illinois-Chicago. Last year she gave $800 million to a bunch of HBCUs and other cash-starved higher-eds serving Black, Latino, Native American and other minority communities. But she also gives to food pantries and Jazz at the Lincoln Center. I mean, sheesh. What's not to like?


   Rock on, MacKenzie.


   I'm left wondering about Maribel Morey, the grammar-challenged individual quoted above. I think she's jealous. I certainly am. What about you?


Frank S. Joseph, Author, The "Chicago Trilogy"



P.S. Publication of the "Chicago Trilogy" proceeds apace. Just this morning, TouchPoint Press notified me that my editor will be one "Mallory" and that I'll be hearing from her shortly. Onward!

Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.


You are receiving this email as a friend or acquaintance of author Frank S. Joseph. To be removed, simply send Frank an email at frank@frankjoseph.com. You'll be removed at once and not see these messages again.


Our mailing address is:
Frank Joseph, Author
5617 Warwick Pl.
Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503

Add us to your address book

Be the first to comment


Dear Friend of Frank,

   I was out walking this morning when a 17-year locust dropped down my back—where I couldn't reach it, natch.

   Dive-bombed right into the collar of my T-shirt and quickly found a nice warm home.

   I jumped around in a St. Vitus Dance that moved a fellow walker to ask whether I was OK. I was not.

   I did the shimmy and the shake, the twist and the shout. Thought I'd worked it on out when I felt it wriggling again (climbing actually, that's what they do).

   Thought about taking off my shirt. Then thought what if I were a woman and wanted to take off my shirt.

   I was freaking out by the time I got home. I did take off my shirt then. Carol assured me I was bug-free but I itched as if the cursed thing were still there. Only her patented back-scratch was equal to the moment.

   Yes, I live in the Land of the Locust*, though I could hardly tell it until this morning. Despite daily scare stories interspersed with tasty locust recipes, unusually cool weather has kept the locusts from behaving like … well … locusts.


   *OK, not locusts but cicadas, as readers didn't hesitate to point out.

   But now it's hot, typical late-May Washington-hot. I expect the song of the locust to be heard throughout the land soon.

   It likely will be my last locust rodeo. I'm of an age when another 17-year wait isn't a sure thing.

   How inconvenient.

   The pandemic is passing. I'm seeing friends for lunch again—inside the restaurant, thank you, not freezing my buns under some weak outdoor heater. I'm in fine health. I've rejoined the gym and am working with a trainer to get back in shape. (He was impressed with my ability to hold a plank 30 seconds. When I said I could go lots longer, he responded, "How old did you say you were?") Our son gets married in July in Taos NM and we get to fly on an actual airplane. We'll be there 3½ weeks, celebrating. And I'm about to fulfill a dream, publication of my Chicago Trilogy.

   You'd think at least I could look forward to more locusts.

   Maybe this morning, that little guy was not a pest after all. Maybe he (She? It? They/them?) was sent to show me the upside to growing old. No more locusts down my back.

   Yup, that's it. An angel from locust heaven. This would explain the downward trajectory.


Frank S. Joseph, Author, The "Chicago Trillogy"



P.S. The contract with TouchPoint Press has been signed. Next comes introductions, working with their editor, getting covers designed and other necessities of production, discussing publishing and marketing strategies. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email as a friend or acquaintance of author Frank S. Joseph. To be removed, simply send Frank an email at frank@frankjoseph.com. You'll be removed at once and not see these messages again.


Our mailing address is:
Frank Joseph, Author
5617 Warwick Pl.
Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503

Add us to your address book

Be the first to comment

Some COVID Good News

Dear Friend of Frank,


   I've found a publisher at last.


   TouchPoint Press will publish all three novels of my "Chicago trilogy"­—To Do Justice, To Walk Humbly and To Love Mercy. I just now signed the contract.


   To Love Mercy already was published. Thousands read and loved it, as evidenced by 28 Amazon reviews averaging five stars. But you read it right: TouchPoint plans to republish it!


   Props and kudos to my literary agent, Latoya C. Smith of LCS Literary Services, for making this happen. Love and kisses to everyone who's helped me along this thorny path, most especially the stalwarts of the Holey Roaders writers' group who've been unmatched critics and friends for going on two decades. And there isn't enough love and kisses in the world with which to thank Carol, Sam and Shawn, my beloved family.


   I'll be telling you more in the weeks and months to come. Today is just for sharing some great news.


Frank S Joseph, Author



Copyright © 2021 Frank Joseph, Author, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Frank S Joseph, Author

5617 Warwick Pl.

Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503


Be the first to comment

The Disappearing Dr. Seuss

Dear Friend of Frank,

   With credit to a clever author:

     Alas they've come for Dr. SEUSS, they wish to hang him with a noose.
     They claim his tales were racist bent, they judged him fast, missed what he 

     But if we look inside his tales, you'll find the balance of the scales.
     Remember when Horton heard a Who, and we heard the wisdom of the Lorax

     The lesson behind Green Eggs and Ham, that changed the mind of Sam I am.
     Remember too the rotten Grinch, who once would never give an inch.
     He taught us lessons, one and all, boys and girls, big and small.
     So if you've judged his works as poor, you should re- read them, I implore.
     The man we know as Dr. SEUSS, turned our imaginations loose.
     His impact was beyond compare, he taught us it was good to care.
     To accept the red, the blue, the green, and on each other we can lean.
     So if you still won't give an inch, your heart has hardened like the Grinch.
     Release the grudge, the hate, the rue, and embrace the hope of Cindy Lou.

Posted on Facebook by a friend, Jeff Smullin, who reposted it from an unnamed other friend, the anonymous author.

   I am ancient enough to report that I read and loved McElligott's Pool and To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street as the kid for whom they were written. I even remember where I read them: The neoclassical Blackstone Branch of the Chicago Public Library.


The Blackstone Library today. Source: Wikipedia

   These two titles, plus four others from Dr. Seuss's early work, are now officially out of print, withdrawn by the estate of the good doctor. ("Dr. Seuss" was the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the late, beloved author of dozens of books for children illustrated with his characteristic quirky drawings. All but these six works will remain in print.)

   The six titles were withdrawn for depictions now viewed as offensive, including Chinese characters drawn with slits for eyes, and Black characters attired as if for the African bush.

   Mulberry Street, the first children's book published under the Seuss pen name, came out in 1937.

   Gee, 1937. America was a really different place in 1937.The Depression was still on. The Communist party had millions of adherents and was semi-respectable. War was on the horizon. And Blacks were being lynched in the South. They were fleeing North by the millions, boarding the Illinois Central in Mississippi and coming to my sweet home Chicago in pursuit of the American Dream: A better life with good jobs, good homes and respect. They found the first, if not the second or the third.

   And "Amos 'n' Andy" was on the radio. In 1937 it had already been on the radio for nine years. It was hugely popular—with everyone. White, Brown, Black ... everyone. If you had a radio, chances are you caught "Amos 'n' Andy"—and everyone had a radio. There was no TV, there was no Facebook, no Twitter Instagram Parler 4Chan 8Kun yada yada. Radio was popular culture.

   "Amos 'n' Andy" was often criticized, with good reason. It featured stereotyped Black characters voiced by white actors (Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll). But these characters were human beings -- flawed, laughable, but lovable too. It was their humanity, I believe, that endeared them to Blacks.


   That and the fact that Blacks could see themselves. Amos drove a cab and was a hard-working dedicated family man. The Kingfish was a henpecked braggart full of get-rich-quick schemes that often ended with him getting egg on his face. Of a summer night, the voices of The Kingfish and his shrew wife Sapphire would waft from every window in the all-Black neighborhood known as Bronzeville, a/k/a Chicago's Harlem. You can look this up. I have.

Gosden ("Amos") and Correll ("Andy"), 1929. Source: Wikipedia

   And "Amos 'n' Andy" was not an isolated phenomenon. It's uncomfortable to say what I'm about to say after the cop murder of George Floyd and everything else we've been through, but I feel compelled to remind you just how different those times were.


   Take foreign accents. Today many of us detest comedy that makes fun of them but "Life with Luigi," featuring an Italian immigrant who spoke in a dis-a dese-a accent, went on CBS Radio in 1948 and didn't leave the air until 1953. Today many of us reject portrayals of Blacks as less than strong, less than powerful. But one of the most popular movies in 1948 was Disney's "Song of the South," based on the tales of an ex-slave ("Uncle Remus") as told to two camera-ready white children who, despite their ages, are clearly are his social superiors.

   The Uncle Remus tales are based on the work of a white Southerner, Joel Chandler Harris, during the 1870s and 1880s -- the height of Reconstruction, when the South won back its racist past despite losing the Civil War. They feature a wily Bre'r Rabbit outfoxing a flummoxed Bre'r Fox and a bumbling Bre'r Bear. In the movie, the human characters are actors but the animals are animations. They may look like Disneyfied bunnies, bears and foxes, but they're unmistakably stand-ins for Black Americans during slavery and Reconstruction times.

Bre'r Rabbit statue in Eatonton GA, Joel Chandler Harris's birthplace.Source: Wikipedia

   The Uncle Remus tales were a hit with readers and Song of the South was a hit for Disney. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the 1948 Oscar for Best Original Song.

Song of the South was a hit with little Frankie Jober too. I read the book, reread it and reread it again. In fourth or fifth grade, I went before my class and told (and acted out) those beloved tales, complete with y'alls and yassuhs.

   I'm, um, white. Yeah, I know, nothing to be proud of. I meant no harm. I was sharing what I loved. I was 9 years old, for crying out loud. It was a different time. A really different time.

   There were protests though. The National Negro Congress put up picket lines around theaters. The movie was withdrawn from circulation. You can't watch it on Netflix now. I scored a DVD. The kindest thing I can say about Song of the South is that it's patronizing. The worst is that it's a rather crummy movie.

   Which brings us back to Dr. Seuss.

   Books should not be suppressed. Never. Even the worst trash, even racist trash. Let people read and decide for themselves. That's what I believe.

   Take Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884 but set in slavery times. Huck makes liberal use of the N-word. Huck has been banned, burned, excoriated and condemned, removed from reading list upon reading list, kept from inquiring teen minds coast to coast because of that word alone. Stripped of context, it turns off readers of all races and colors.


   I loathe that word. I never use it myself and I cringe when others, whether Black or White, do so. But context matters. When I read the word coming out of Huck's mouth, it's natural, it's right. If Huck said "African-American" instead, wouldn't you throw the book in the trash? I would.


   Because if there is a Great American Novel, it is Huckleberry Finn. And the reason hinges on that offensive word.

   With humor, grace and gritty reality, Huck addresses the American dilemma of race. Huck himself is a child of his times, a racist little good-for-nothing piece of white trash. Every other word out of his mouth starts with N.


   But Huck's fortunes become tied to those of the escaped slave Jim. Huck believes, as did most Whites in slaveholding Missouri, that Blacks didn't deserve the kindness of whites. But Huck loves Jim. And when he must decide whether to help Jim escape to freedom and therefore burn in Hell forever, Huck says: "All right, then, I'll go to hell." I can't read that line without choking up.

   And this: Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn for adults and young adults, while Dr. Seuss wrote Mulberry Street for 6-year-olds. Uh oh. What is it I actually do believe?

   I believe it's a good idea to take these six books out of print, is what. If I were the father of a teen-ager (I was), I would defend Huckleberry Finn with all my heart. But a 6-year-old and a teen-ager are not the same thing. Teen-agers are in the business of getting life experience to think and judge for themselves. Six-year-olds are ... 6-year-olds.


   Dr. Seuss published more than 60 books. The six that have been withdrawn are less than 10% of that total. The Cat, the Grinch and the Lorax aren't going anywhere. Let those six books fall out of print and Godspeed.


   Were he alive today, I think Dr. Seuss would agree.


Frank S Joseph, Author, The "Chicago Trilogy"


P.S. You haven't heard from me in ages. That's because I have nothing to promote. I've always been open about my ulterior motive for writing this e-blast or blog or whatever it is. I'm an author promoting my novels. Well, right now I'm an author in search of a publisher to publish said novels and hey whaddya know, there may be a publisher in sight. No deal yet but watch this space.


Frank S Joseph, Author · 5617 Warwick Pl. · Chevy Chase, MARYLAND 20815-5503 · USA

Be the first to comment