The Big Slap in the Big Sleep
To continie the debate of Harlequin’s politically correct censoring and altering of reprints of their old books, and the above-board objection from readers, I wonder how Harlequins’ bright and culture-savvy editors would have “changed” Chandler’s The Big Sleep if they got their dainty little hands on the text…
Surely they would not use the above cover art from the 1950 Pocket Books edition. As you can see, Philip Marlowe is abound to backhand a pensive blonde — is she staring at his digits in fear or waited excitement? Does the famous private eye need domestic violence and anger management counseling?
On the back cover, in large red letters, is:
“Come on,” I said brightly. “Let’s be nice. Let’s get dressed.”
Before anyone claims I condone violence aganst women in fiction, I do not…but the point of contention here is: these PC editors have no sense of the history of noir, and the elements that make up the vintage books from the 1940s-60s. Sure, they were sexist, mysoginistic, brutal, crass, caddy, heel-bound, with women’s sexuality often the cause for a man’s downfall — but that was the point. That’s part of the genre.
Changing such things is offensive to the genre’s roots, and to assume readers would be appalled or shocked is just plain stupid. A disclaimer or foreword would have worked, as wel as being informative concerning the views of women some men had in books, or at least their characters did. Just because Marlowe feels the need to slap a dame now and then for her own good doesn’t mean Raymond Chandler did this in real life. He was writing to the specs of his hero and the genre.
I suspect, however, that the day may come when a politicaly correct version of The Big Sleep — and any other books with offensive terms, such as the workls of Joseh Conrad, Hemingway, Faulkner and even Nancy Drew — will be “toned down” for modern day sensitivity.
Wait…what if the book has a woman slapping a man? Does that need to be changed in some eyes, or is that “culturally acceptable”?