Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Susan Ohanian - Schools Matter: Classroom Edition: Dumb-Ass Fiddling with a Smart-Ass Book

Schools Matter: Classroom Edition: Dumb-Ass Fiddling with a Smart-Ass Book:

Classroom Edition: Dumb-Ass Fiddling with a Smart-Ass Book

Susan Ohanian

Emery and Ohanian
Emery and Ohanian

When I received a promo piece announcing the Penguin/Random House publication of a Classroom Edition of Andy Weir’s The Martian,with “classroom-appropriate language and discussion questions and activities,” I immediately ordered the book. A Wall Street Journalreviewer had already called the regular text “Brilliant. . . a celebration of human ingenuity (and) the purest example of real-science sci-fi for many years. . . utterly compelling.” complete with “classroom appropriate language,” so why, I asked myself, was a classroom edition needed.

Of course if I’d read the original book, I wouldn't have asked the question. Here’s how The Martian opens:


                                               The Book                                            Classroom Edition    
                                               I’m pretty much fucked                        I’m pretty much screwed.

In the Q &A in the Classroom Edition of the The Martian, Andy Weir is asked if he has “anything in common with your wise-cracking hero Mark Watney.” Weir replies, “I’m the same level of smart-ass as he is. It was a really easy book to write; I just had him say what I would say. Thus, the expression smart-ass appears on page 377 of a book sanitized for classroom use, a book  that relentlessly excises ‘ass’ from the preceding pages. Editors fiddling to make the bestseller suitable for student eyes insist that the hero gets his ‘”butt” out of bed, not his “ass.” The editors do allow the hero to refer to himself once as “such a dumb-ass” and “long-ass trips” stays intact, but “We’d look like assholes” becomes “like jackasses” and “my half-assed handiwork” becomes “incompetent handiwork.”

Andy Weir's use of “fuck” as a very deliberate stylistic device throughout the text puts editorial refiners into overdrive. Substituting “screwed” for “fucked” continues apace along with some elegant variation.

    profound desire to just fucking die                                      profound desire to just die
    So yeah, I’m fucked                                                             So yeah. I’m screwed.
    Fuck that.                                                                            That would be a bad idea.
    I’m fucked, and I’m gonna die.                                            I’m screwed, and I’m gonna die.
    I’m really fucking sick of being in this rover                       I’m really really sick of being in this rover. 
    What the fuck is wrong with you?                                      What is wrong with you?
    fucked with                                                                          tinkered with
    heavy motherfuckers                                                            insanely heavy
    What the fuck                                                                       What the hell
    Go fuck yourself                                                                   Bite me
    Fuck me raw                                                                         Whoa. . . okay
    Fuck                                                                                      Crap

And so on and so on. The F-Word isn’t the only one mashed up by editorial fiddling. Here’s a sample of a few of the other 
Schools Matter: Classroom Edition: Dumb-Ass Fiddling with a Smart-Ass Book:

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