Actor Tom Hanks, who is currently promoting his novel The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, rebuked his own publisher Penguin Random House, for updating classic P.G. Wodehouse works.
The Telegraph reported back in April that Penguin Random House edited a number of P.G. Wodehouse’s works because they deemed the prose “unacceptable.”
Not only did they edit his works, but they also added trigger warnings at the beginning of his books. The Telegraph reports one of the warnings for Thank You, Jeeves reads, “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterisations which you may find outdated.”
“In the present edition we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.” Furthermore, The Telegraph reports the trigger warning says the edits “do not affect the story.”
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Penguin Random House was not the only publisher to edit classic books. The Telegraph reported in February that Puffin edited a number of Roald Dahl novels. The outlet noted they changed the descriptions of a number of a characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory specifically noting that Augustus Gloop was no longer described as “fat,” but rather “enormous.”
The Oompa-Loompas also had their descriptions of “tiny,” “titchy,” and “no higher than my knee” were changed to “small.” They also changed “small men” to “small people.”
The Telegraph also reported that Puffin wasn’t just changing Dahl’s writing, but were adding in their own lines to the novel. In The Witches, Puffin added, “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”
Other changes were made to Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, a song verse in James and the Giant Peach, The Cloud-Men being turned into Cloud People in James and the Giant Peach and the Fantastic Mr. Fox’s sons being turned into daughters. Matilda also reads Jane Austen instead of Rudyard Kipling.
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HarperCollins also reportedly edited a number of Agatha Christie works that featured the terms “oriental” or “Nubian” to describe a character’s ethnicity. Other edits were made to remove descriptions such as “disgusting.” The n-word was also cut from her works.
Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. also edited what The Telegraph reports are “depictions of black people.” The company included a trigger warning at the beginning of new publications of Fleming’s novels that reads, “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.”
It adds, “A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.”
Hanks reacted to this trend telling the BBC, “I’m of the opinion that we’re all grown-ups here. Let’s have faith in our own sensibilities as opposed to having somebody decide what we may or may not be offended by.”
He added, “Let me decide what I am offended by and what I’m not offended by. I would be against reading any book from any era that says ‘abridged due to modern sensitivities.'”
Hanks would then pivot in what appears to be an attempt to deflect criticism of his comments saying, “Understand this. James Bond has a license to kill. I would issue that license to Idris Elba just based on the work that I’ve seen him do.”
What do you make of Hanks’ comments about these publishers editing classic works?
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