On the Revision of Roald Dahl's Racist, Sexist Oeuvre

Concerning the controversy about the descendants of Roald Dahl revising his books to make them less creepy: I think it is fine. Good. Ok. No problem. (With my only reservation being that it does not sound like they are doing a good job.)

This reverence of the 'original' is stupid. It's a goddam set of children's books but, even if it was the Bible, the notion that artifacts have to be frozen in time is wrong.

(I make some concession for cases where the changes amount to historical revisionism. I sympathize with the reluctance over changes to Huckleberry Finn that make it seem like that era was egalitarian.)

I'd be mad if no library kept a copy of the earlier versions. I want to be able to look back and revel in the nastiness as much as the next guy but, nothing is or should be permanent. Least of all reprehensible expressions.

And, as long as we consider (wrongly) the idea of intellectual property as a thing, profiting from it is the point.

Says an interlocutor, finished art should be preserved accurately; we must retain it and its meaning forever.

I don't agree. Nothing is finished. Everything rusts, gets dusty, decays. Civilizations rise and fall. Change is everywhere and inevitable. Amazon's Glacier, archival digital storage, works really, really hard to preserve digital bits. Someday, Amazon is going to be a memory and those bits are going to be worn out. I have written many superb words, things I truly believe should be preserved. When Amazon goes, they will be gone, too.

I do not share your reverence for "finished art". I care about society, more accurately, I care about the people in society. If art is hurting people, fuck it to death. I have no loyalty to 'things'. I have loyalty to a good world. (Also, I want to say things about elitism and the idea that 'his' words are "finished art" and others are not but I don't want to make this note endless.)

I do not believe in censorship. I would be appalled if anyone said, "You cannot read Dahl in the original." I would be appalled if the Dahl estate endeavored to enforce the use of the new version. I would consider it harmful to the people in our society if they pretended that black people were not abused in the time of Huck Finn.

I would consider revising a painting to be problematic because that would deprive us of the original. I would not have problem with it being recreated, detail for detail except for the sexism, or whatever crime is troubling the children.

But, I am different than most. You might recall my lifelong opposition to copyright and intellectual property. I share belief with those people who opposed copyright in the seventeen hundreds. Creativity is not the virtue of the artist. He or she is a channel for something that is not theirs. 

Those folk thought it was god. I think it is a trick of genetics and upbringing. It is luck, sometimes an inability to work a real job, perhaps mental illness like Van Gogh. That their scribblings and sounds cause people pleasure is as much a consequence of the audience as the artist. If not for us, Yellow Brick Road would not been a cultural icon, it would be forgotten with the other songs we did not choose.

I think the idea of reverence, that "they" as in, "should be accepted", that there is a glorious 'it' different from other objects, is a fallacy. Art is human stuff and I have no more reverence for an old painting than I have for an old sword, which I would happily see hammered into a plowshare. Unless, of course, I happened to like it but, really, does my caprice really make it capital-I, Important?

As for losing the understanding, go find a copy of Dahl in the original and enjoy it. Study and write papers. I'll read them. I like to understand things, too. 

But, there is no value in children appreciating his vile ideas and there is value in the Dahl estate continuing to provide quality entertainment for them.