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24 March 2015 @ 11:49 am
App-alling Part II  
So, I have mentioned the Clean Reader app a few times of late. I downloaded the free app and then purchased a book within the app to see how it worked. I selected GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE as the book to download since: 1) I had read the book; 2) I love the book; 3) I was curious to see what the app would do to "clean it up."

The answer? The app has several settings: clean, cleaner, squeaky clean. I opted to SQUEAKY CLEAN. All that happened was that any "profanity" was removed from the text and replaced with an icon. "Read books, not profanities" is the apparent motto of the app. So, clean reading in this case means removing F-bombs and other 4 letter words. It works sort of like the MPAA ratings do. Blow up someone, PG-13. Say "fuck" too many times, R. Only in this case, the words are simply removed. In some passages, actually in most passages, any astute reader will be able to use the CLOZE method to fill in the blanks.

But I am confused by this. If removing "swears" makes something clean, what does that say? Would the authors of this app allowed their young daughter to read GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE now that the cussing was gone? Is the use of 4 letter words what makes a book "dirty"? Frank Zappa, lead singer of The Mothers of Invention sang "What's the ugliest part of your body?" Here is a link to the lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/frankzappa/whatstheugliestpartofyourbody.html. His conclusion? Your mind. Somehow that seems fitting here. By giving all manner of import to these words, would-be censors think removing said words somehow removes any danger from the ideas in the books being challenged. Does painting the diaper on Mikey from In the Night Kitchen change the theme of the book. How about removing the N word from Huck Finn? How does that change the work and what we take from it? I think both actions are unjustifiable given that they compromise the original text/art. And so I wonder, too, about why this app is permitted to change the text without violating copyright?

There is a larger issue here, of course. But I cannot help but be puzzled by the thinking behind this app. Words, words, words, replied Hamlet when Polonius inquired what he was reading. I worry that kids will see reading as just that if we continue to focus on words, words, words.
 
 
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