I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole Clean Reader thing while trying to tactfully present my thoughts. Know what? Fuck that.
Changing an author’s work because it offends your delicate sensibilities is a really shitty thing to do. Every word is carefully chosen by the author to convey EXACTLY what they want to convey. If it makes you squirm, the book is doing its JOB. Write your own story. Read something else. Don’t change an author’s work to suit YOUR views. What makes this thing worse is that the author is not consulted, nor permission to change the text given. The creators of this app just decided to do it because, as they said, their daughter came home one day and was sad because a book had swearing in it, and she had to put it down.
Maybe she shouldn’t have been reading the book.
In high school, for AP English, I read a book called Germinal. In it, there was a shopkeeper who liked to have his way with the town’s daughters. One day, the women rose up, killed him, and paraded his penis on a stick through town. It was shocking. And I read it in high school. Guess what? I’m still alive. Disturbed? Yes. But that I remember this scene OVER TWENTY YEARS LATER means something. It means the book did its job. It formed a lasting picture. A picture with words.
Not only does this app remove/change swear words, it does so for body parts. “Vagina” and “penis” are not dirty words. They’re normal. Nothing to be ashamed of. We need to stop thinking of our bodies as something disgusting. If your child doesn’t know what these parts are, you’ve got problems. A child who is comfortable with his/her body is more likely to protect and respect that body. If you make it seem like there’s something wrong with it…yeah…enjoy the therapy bills.
Back to the author point of view. In general, how we craft a novel isn’t very well known, so let me school you. First, we have a first draft. It’s crap, but we get it down. Sometimes, we stay awake all night, hacking away until our fingers and hands are exhausted. If we don’t, the book inside us claws at us in a desperate bid to be free. It’s maddening. Eventually (as this step could take YEARS…can you imagine? YEARS, people), we have to do something called “editing.” That means, we rip apart our babies – those manuscripts we worked so hard on. Every word has to be accounted for. EVERY WORD. We agonize. We research. We have our critique partners and editors rip it apart for us. It’s a brutal, brutal thing. But eventually, we finish so we can send it off to be criticized again by agents and publishers. Every word, accounted for. Everything put exactly where it is for a reason.
Editors and such SUGGEST edits. “Maybe this word would work better than this one,” they suggest. Not demand. Back to the agonizing.
Catching on now? I call writing my blessing and my curse. It’s a maddening yet wonderful process. Every word is mine. So, you can see how much it would upset me to have someone change or omit these words that I poured my heart and soul into – and without permission, to boot.