NEW YORK, NY. – Following the announcement earlier this week that Alabama’s NewSouth Books would be removing the word N-word from an upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s classic novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the American Association of Book Publishers announced the the word “dick” would be expunged from future editions of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” It was also announced that the book’s title would be changed to “Moby Doug.”
While controversial, the decision to remove the phallic colloquialism from the greatest novel ever written in the English language is being embraced by both fans and detractors of the book.
“Look, the word ‘dick’ appears over 80 times in the novel, not to mention right there on the cover where everyone can see it,” said Amelia Rashad-Posey, Professor Emeritus of Melville Studies at Stanford University, “There’s simply no way you can ask a middle school teacher in this day and age to make a student to read the word ‘dick’ out loud in class. That’s not a risk that your average underpaid, poorly motivated teacher is going to take. And this is not a book kids will pick up on their own.”
Award-winning Melville biographer, Gerd Wallace, has also reluctantly thrown his support behind the decision. “We’ve been debating this move for years, and I’m now firmly on board with this decision. We can’t let an otherwise innocent four-letter word get in the way of this great novel’s legacy. This is a sad, but necessary concession to the least common denominator.”
Helen Wendt, of the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education, applauded the decision. “That word is evil,” she said. “That word makes people think of a penis. Maybe it makes them think of a vagina. That’s a sin. And people who read books are going to hell.” Wendt believes they’ve “won this battle, but not the war,” which is how she characterizes her decade long crusade to make only the bible and books about intelligent design available in public schools and libraries.
Book-burning Florida pastor Nathan Bedford Beauregard announced that he is pleased with the planned changes, but he asserts that they don’t go far enough. Beauregard supports additional proposed changes that would further alter the novel, especially the removal of passages that many feel have homosexual undertones. “That book is gay,” said Beauregard during a conference call this afternoon. “You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. That book is gayer than a football bat. It’s gayer than Broadway. And it’s gayer than a box of Dennis Cooper novels, which I would burn if I had.”
Rashad-Posey confirmed that further changes are still under consideration. “I don’t know if Herman Melville was gay. And I don’t care,” she said. “You’ll have to ask Gerd Wallace about that. But some of the book certainly seems gay. Right? At least to a modern audience. Men sleeping with men. Men dancing with men. Men living with other men on a boat. Men squeezing sperm. I mean, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to a whale penis. It’s like ten sentences long. If you lose that, seriously, what do you really lose? Logic alone dictates that whales have giant penises. Do we need to read that they’re longer than a Kentuckian is tall?’”
This is hardly the first time that a work of literature has been edited, or censored, in order to accommodate a society’s changing sensibilities. The practice is widely attributed to Thomas Bowdler who published a “cleaned-up” series of Shakespearean works in the early 19th century. This initiated a long history of “bowdlerizing” works for the masses, including “Tarzan” and “Doctor Doolittle.”
Ironically, unlike the “Huck Finn” situation, there have been few, if any, calls to edit or to remove the racially insensitive language and situations in “Moby Dick.” When hearing of Melville’s offensive depiction of the black character Pip and of the novel’s assertion that white men have “mastership over every dusky tribe,” Beauregard said, “I don’t find any of that offensive.”
And when asked how the name “Doug” was chosen, American Association of Book Publishers president Douglas Waters said, “Well, there was obviously a lot of early support for going with ‘Moby Richard,’ but in the end, we still felt the connotation and the nickname would too often come into play. So I tossed Doug out there. And it sort of stuck.”