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Letters: Stuttering And Editing Huckleberry Finn

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Talk of the Nation listeners wrote to the show to share their stories of coping with stuttering. Also, our conversation with Alan Gribben, who edited the n-word out of Huckleberry Finn, prompted numerous emails. Some thanked him, but the majority opposed the new version of the classic tale.


It's Tuesday, and time to read from your emails and Web comments. And our inbox is filled with all sorts of words and phrases after our conversation with the professor who edited the N-word out of Mark Twain's classic "Huckleberry Finn."

Chuck Criss(ph) in Minneapolis emailed to say thank you to Professor Gribben. We are an intellectually advanced nation, he writes, that doesn't need to use this word to promote the ideas behind the book. As a white father of African-American children, I am very happy that they will not be subjected to this in school. I would be one of the parents who vehemently opposed having this book taught to my children if the word remained.

The majority of emails, though, read like this one from Dudley Barlow in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The language in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is difficult and often offensive. The way to overcome that problem, though, is not to dilute the novel and undermine Twain's purpose. It is to help students see Twain's method and why it is effective.

One note of irony on the topic, Edward Benton(ph) tried to send us a message through our Contact Us form at, and he wrote to complain, your software automatically gave me this message when I typed in the N-word: Please remove inappropriate language from your posting before submitting.

We also talked last week about the new movie "The King's Speech" and how many people cope with a stutter. Marissa in Reno wrote to tell us she used to stutter. I can still remember the experience of being in front of a room full of people, she writes, unable to articulate my thoughts as I got stuck on the same syllable for what felt like forever. I struggled, but learned to cope and slowed down my thoughts to align with my speech. I now see it as a teachable moment. All of us have difficulties, and we must not use them as an excuse to avoid a challenge.

During our coverage of the opening day of the new session of Congress, we talked with the incoming chair of the House Transportation Committee. That's Congressman John Mica.

David Teren(ph), a listener in Utah, took issue with one of his points. He writes: The congressman said the Obama administration chose to work on health care first rather than the economy and the Democrats paid for it during the election, as our economy is currently in ruin. You should've corrected the congressman by explaining that the first thing the Obama administration worked on was the stimulus package to reverse the freefall of the economy.

And finally, this correction in our coverage of the latest WikiLeaks release of State Department cables. We got our numbers wrong. While WikiLeaks says it has a quarter of a million documents, they have so far only released about 2,000. We apologize for the confusion.

I'm Mary Louise Kelly, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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