Crossing the Line… again

For many years, listening to Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” was part of my daily regimen.  Two years ago, Mr. Keillor ‘crossed the line’ and I abandoned his daily offerings.

This post is a forward of the January 18, 2021 post.  I feel compelled to re-post when I read about a British publisher’s re-writing of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and other memorable works.

Susan Nossel – CEO of PEN America – sums it up as well as anyone: “At PEN America, we are alarmed at the news of ‘hundreds of changes’ to venerated works by Roald Dahl in a purported effort to scrub the books of that which might offend someone…  If we start down the path of trying to correct for perceived slights instead of allowing readers to receive and react to books as written, we risk distorting the work of great authors and clouding the essential lens that literature offers on society.”  Amen to that.

A February 27, 2023 update to the reposted post… A 40-year-old conversation with Roald Dahl clarifies his position on the potential censorship of his work.  As reported in The Guardian,

“I’ve warned my publishers that if they later on so much as change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see another word from me. Never! Ever!” he said.

With his typically evocative language, he added: “When I am gone, if that happens, then I’ll wish mighty Thor knocks very hard on their heads with his Mjolnir. Or I will send along the ‘enormous crocodile’ to gobble them up.”

The February 27, 2023 issue of The Guardian also reports that Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels “are to be reissued with a number of racial references removed and a disclaimer that the books might use terms of attitudes ‘considered offensive by modern readers.’”

And now the re-posted post from 2021…

I have never been a fan of ‘political correctness.’  If you have something to say, say it.  Every individual who hears it or reads it has his God-given freedom of choice to accept it, agree with it, discard it, or whatever.  No individual has the right to change it.  If he does not agree with what I say or what I write, she has no right to change it.

Garrison Keillor

Although I do not agree with everything Garrison Keillor says or writes, I enjoy listening to him and reading his work.  This morning, however, he crossed the line.  I will forgive his trespass, but I will not forget it.

Rudyard Kipling

One of my favorite poems is the iconic “If” written by the British Nobel laureate poet Rudyard Kipling in 1895 and first published in 1910.  Mr. Kipling wrote his poem in 32 lines – four, 8-line stanzas.  It tells us how to live a fulfilling and satisfying life.  The poem concludes…

Rudyard Kipling

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

I was appalled as I heard Mr. Keillor read it on his “Writer’s Almanac” this morning.  Although he left “If all men count with you, but none too much” unchanged, he had the brazen gall to alter the final lines of Mr. Kipling’s poem to…

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With full attention to the surrounding world,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – what is more – you are a woman, my girl.”

I have asked myself over and over, “Why would so respected and well-known an author and orator like Garrison Keillor believe that he has the privilege to change one of the greatest poems ever penned?”

I am hurt.  I forgive Mr. Keillor, but I will never forget what he did on this morning in 2021.


3 responses to “Crossing the Line… again”

  1. Fully agree with you Gene

  2. If only Garrison Keillor were the only “man” doing so. Look what “men” have done to what are called “Holy Scriptures”, and claim “authenticity”. Franklin Graham is comparing the impeachment of Trump to Jesus on trial and Republicans who voted for that as Judases. Seems to me he’s changing the gospel and making it sound like ANIMAL FARM, and the result is what happened at the nation’s Capitol on January 6th.
    Yes, that’s only my read on the situation. But the outgoing president has kept his promise: “Make America GRATE again!” Keillor “changed” the poem to include not just “men” but other members of humanity who are also part of the “IF”. Without them, we “men” would not even be here. I would commend Keillor for not leaving OUT an important element of “the picture”.

    1. E.S. Kraay Avatar
      E.S. Kraay

      While I disagree with the majority of your comment, I will not censor it. I continue to applaud Mr. Kipling for his words that have inspired so many people – men and women – since he first wrote them over a century ago. No one – man, woman, or child – has the right to change them for any reason.

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