Lisa Kleypas has released a revised and updated audio edition of Mine Til Midnight originally published in 2007. The book is the first in her Hathaways series. Here is the Amazon blurb for the current Kindle version which does not say it’s been updated:
When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.
Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his “uncivilized” Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship—but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. But can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honored arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter.
The new audio version, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, was released on June 23rd and, according to the first reviewers on Audible, contains changes that some listeners find distressing.
Ugh, so disappointed I can’t find words. And you know what- I’m angry as well. I LOVED this book. The ORIGINAL version of this book. “Revised and updated” not so much. Why have they sanitized it? They ruined it for me.
I was so excited when I saw that Lisa kleypas had an updated edition of this book. But as much as I wanted to love it I could not. I am so happy rosalyn landor is back as she is awesome as always. There were so many things in the original story or the original recording that I loved that were edited or taken out for the purposes of being politically correct. One of the scenes especially that I loved was when Amelia and cam were in the room together and cam seduces her during their second encounter. This was completely edited and changed to make it more consenting. There are also some ending changes that I didnt care for either having to do with bees. Overall, it was good to hear another version but I will be sticking to my old copy as I think that story is perfect the way it is.
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
The NYT has an article about this today. It says:
Apparently you can turn this feature off. But it still bothers the hell out of me that book I bought can be revised without my knowlege.
Censorship is wrong. I have enjoyed lisa kleypas books for years. My latest purchase was an ebook (Mine till midnight). It was different than the original. This not only is self Censorship but also bait and switch. Very disappointed in one of my favorite authors. I will buy no more of her books!!!
If books have been changed, it should be made clear!
I’ve been doing a bit of shelf editing on GR, and in the course of checking tropes, etc. I happened upon this on Mia Vincy’s website (on the book page for A Beastly Kind of Earl):
A note from the author:
This isn’t an author that comes to mind when I think of problematic content. I’m curious about the revisions.
I’m a bit confused myself. I haven’t read Mia Vincy, but I read the reviews of “A Beastly Kind of Earl” on Amazon and found only ONE vague complaint about the book being “racist.” On Goodreads, I found zero complaints of this nature. But this reader on Amazon- who says she is “an upper-middle class white lady in my mid 40s. I shouldn’t even be noticing these things because of my white privilege-” went on to say, “I read until the Latina character was introduced and had to stop reading. It felt icky and I couldn’t really figure out why.”
Think about this. You have ONE reviewer who can’t pinpoint why she thinks a portrayal is racist, when she isn’t even of the culture being allegedly portrayed in a racist fashion, and Mia Vincy feels the need to work with consultants and apologize for “causing harm.” (As an aside, the reviewer says she wouldn’t feel comfortable giving this story to her “half-Mexican niece,” but again, offers no clear explanation why.)
This reminds me of the landmark court case where George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” routine played on the radio after hours worth of warnings throughout the day. ONE complaint got the radio station in legal trouble with the FCC. Carlin made fun of this incident in one of his stand-up comedy routines where he said something like, “There was only one complaint from a preacher in Iowa [or was it Idaho?] who heard the routine on his car radio with his teenage son. This preacher didn’t feel damaged by the broadcast, nor did he think his teenage son was damaged by the broadcast. But this busybody thought that YOU might be. And apparently, nobody ever told this preacher from Iowa that a radio has two dials- one that changes the station and one that turns the radio off!”
Well, that’s cryptic. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read that book and I can’t recall the book very well. I’m going to go read reviews on GRs because now I want to know!
Okay, I do remember now. I forgot for a moment that A Beastly Kind of Earl is the second book. SmartBitches had a good mini-roundtable discussion on their site on Vincy’s depiction of a crucial secondary character who is a black woman. I just reread their discussion and review and they argue that Martha is important to the story but exists as little more than a one-dimensional stereotype of a black woman whose defining trait is comic relief, whereas secondary white characters are more fully developed. There’s a good debate about the clumsy use of Spanish in the book because a Spanish-speaking woman from Peru has inept control over her own native language. One of the reviewers and a number of readers commented on the handling of mental health issues. They did not trash the book and evaluated it for the romance, etc, but that particular part of the discussion caused them to lower their grade. I follow Mia Vincy on social media and she comes across as a lovely, considerate person, and I could imagine her taking the criticism to heart and wanting to engage better with these issues.
Thanks for the specific examples, Blackjack.
“There’s a good debate about the clumsy use of Spanish in the book because a Spanish-speaking woman from Peru has inept control over her own native language.”
Okay, that I can definitely see correcting because it falls more in the objective realm of typos and factual blunders than subjective rubrics of political correctness. But I think it goes a little far for Vincy to feel the need to go around “apologizing for causing harm” for something that seems more like a “Whoops! My bad. Fixed this. Sorry for the mix-up.”
“They did not trash the book…” I’m glad to hear that. Likewise, I think a lot of critics would attract more flies with honey than vinegar when it comes to critiquing book mistakes and iffy character portrayals.
Elaine S. made this statement: “This is why “ignorant” books need to be published. I live in great fear of anyone being silenced because their POV does not fit in with whatever the current woke “acceptable” stance is.”
I agree, Elaine. This to me is the very definition of censorship, and we are walking a perilously thin line here.
As far as I am concerned, books that are written about a certain time period have to reflect the mores of that period. It offends me that women were once treated as property but that was the culture of that period. It’s called historical accuracy. You cannot change or ignore history, even in a romance novel.
I personally think political correctness is getting out of control, when people are afraid to write or say something because they might offend someone. And to really piss off the politically correct people out there, IMHO, the basic anonymity that social media provides encourages a certain type of mob mentality. It is very dangerous in many ways. It is so easy to malign and degrade people anonymously when you wouldn’t dare do it to their faces.
I’m off on a rant and I’m sure there are those of you who will make me live to regret it, but I do not believe that authors or painters or playwrights et al should have to change their past works. Our country is based on freedom of expression and when people feel afraid to say anything, I think we should all be frightened.
I grew up believing that equality and individual rights were, in and of themselves, the goal. It feels today as though many, on the left and the right, believe that those goals can only be accomplished through censorship and policing the opinions of others. This makes me deeply uncomfortable.
Makes me uncomfortable as well.
I can’t upvote this enough. What really worries me right now is that people I know who grew up under regimes where censorship and policing were a way of life and came to the U.S. to escape it are the ones panicking now.
I don’t know if it’s because the people advocating it are mostly so young they don’t know what it is to not have that freedom or people have just gotten complaisant but it really scares me.
You are right
It occurs to me though that the vast majority of people here on this AAR forum from all political spectrum have agreed that revisionism of published books is NOT a desirable thing. A few people have posted concerns about the impact of discrimination in books and whether revisionism can address racism or sexism, but still, most people here have asserted that books should be published freely. (Amazon did discontinue their sales of pedophilia and pornography over the past decade.) Nevertheless, I wonder if revisionism is really that much of an issue right now and how often it’s taking place?
People seem to feel comfortable talking about the culture wars — i.e., the Left is “politically correct” and rampant in “cancel culture” and the Right is based in “white grievance politics” and “outrage culture.” Meanwhile, today, according to a Pew Poll, 17% of Americans feel proud of the state of our nation, 48 million Americans out of work, we’re looking now at a looming eviction foreclosure crisis, an unchecked pandemic, millions of Americans lined up at food pantries across the country just trying not to die. Maybe the culture war isn’t quite as huge as some might think.
A Gallup poll from June 15th found:
Although a majority of adults in the U.S. still say they are “extremely proud” (42%) or “very proud” (21%) to be American, both readings are the lowest they have been since Gallup’s initial measurement in 2001.
I think the reason so many of us at AAR feel comfortable talking about the culture wars is because of its direct relationship to the overarching theme of this website- literature. Naturally, unemployment and all it entails is a major issue. But concerns about policing language and authors understandably takes front and center for a website focused on romance readers and writers.
The political, medical, social, and financial spheres in America are each in precarious positions right now. And so many Americans seem to refuse to even consider listening to points of view other than their own, much less trying to understand alternate ideas. The only way to get through these looming crises intact is to communicate with one another, and when you have censorship honest communication becomes impossible.
So, I stand firmly against changing previously published works. If the author herself wants to change it, then both versions should be made available. I much prefer the ‘content warning’ approach, with perhaps an apology from the writer for previously held believe that are now considered unacceptable. Censorship, even self-censorship, is a slippery slope and extreme caution should be used before applying it.
Yes, and it looks like nearly everyone agrees here on the topic of books not having to be being revised. It’s a rare moment of near consensus actually, which is part of the point I was making. If people from the left, right, and middle agree that authors shouldn’t revise their previously published books or feel pressured to, then there’s little dissent in this forum. But some are still trying to frame this discussion as an example of “PC culture” run amok and that too seems divisive. I would say though that some authors may take reviewer or reader criticism to heart and choose to revise, and that’s their prerogative. I’ve been following Penny Reid’s personal narrative about being called out for writing her Knitting in the City series without a single person of color in it despite being set in Chicago. She vowed to do better and wrote a novel with a black Southern character only to find that many readers struggle with white authors narrating the experiences of people of color. She now says that going forward she no longer feels it’s her place to tell the stories of poc.
She is someone working through tricky racial issues and I commend her for it.
And yes, my gosh, are our institutions fraught.
“I’ve been following Penny Reid’s personal narrative about being called out for writing her Knitting in the City series without a single person of color in it despite being set in Chicago. She vowed to do better and wrote a novel with a black Southern character only to find that many readers struggle with white authors narrating the experiences of people of color. She now says that going forward she no longer feels it’s her place to tell the stories of poc.”
This is one of those classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenarios. She’s definitely not alone among authors who get “called out” for not being diverse enough, and then get accused of telling stories that are “not their place” when they do make them diverse. I think writers need to stop trying to appease people so hard and just write the stories they want to tell. Because, guess what? As a writer, *any* story is your “place” to tell. That’s kind of what the profession of storyteller means.
I think it’s a tricky situation, particularly if the author is writing contemporary romance. The attitude can change pretty quickly. Will it be like movie roles where the consensus now seems to be that straight actors shouldn’t be taking roles of gay or bisexual characters?
Not long ago it was considered brave for an actor to play the role of a gay character in film or TV. Harry Hamlin said it ended his movie career and people tried to dissuade Heath Ledger from his breakout role in Brokeback Mountain. Years ago Gary Oldman said his agent used to yell at him not to take any more roles where the character was gay. Now actors like Darren Criss who have made their careers in roles as gay men (both loved and hated) have vowed not to accept any of these roles as they should go to gay or bi men.
I have read a few books written by white women where the main characters were women of color but they were paranormal romances so I am not sure how a contemporary would hold up. I have read some modern mysteries as well but most contemporary romances with women of color as heroines I think of were also written by women of color.
The one series I really did actively think about the lack of people of color in while reading was the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. In great part because it is set in Louisiana which has the second highest population of Black Americans but only one character in the whole series that I recall. And he was killed off quickly and was much better served on the TV show.
“Will it be like movie roles where the consensus now seems to be that straight actors shouldn’t be taking roles of gay or bisexual characters?”
That’s the consensus now? If so, I’m really sorry to hear that. I definitely understand why people say things like, “Seriously, hire Asian actors instead of putting pounds of make-up on white actors’ faces,” but I would be disappointed if something like sexual orientation- which isn’t necessarily visual- became off-limits to talented actors who didn’t share the same orientation.
Some of the most sensitive portrayals I have seen of gay men in cinema have been from straight men. John Hurt as Quentin Crisp immediately comes to mind. Even Quentin Crisp was blown away by Hurt’s portrayal of him in “The Naked Civil Servant.” And on that note, should Quentin Crisp have been barred from his brilliant interpretation of Queen Elizabeth in “Orlando” because he was a man? Are we going to prevent fantastic gay actors like Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi from playing straight characters? Who draws the lines in the sand?
A big part of being an actor is to create a character and become that person. Wouldn’t it be awful if actors were only allowed to play themselves? Then, it wouldn’t be acting. Sure, there’s definitely such a thing as miscasting. As somebody once joked, “The reason casting directors are allowed to discriminate based on appearance is that otherwise, Denzel Washington would be cast as Scarlet O’Hara in the remake- and he’d have to play it straight.” But for something internal like sexual orientation? I can’t really get behind the argument that actors should stay in their lane of real life sexual preference.
As for writers, nobody can see the author the way they can see an actor. Unlike an actor, a good author should be invisible when the reader experiences their books. So, being invisible, why shouldn’t an author exercise the freedom to pursue characters and stories far beyond her own experience? I mean, do research to avoid embarrassing flubs and exercise some basic common sense, but other than that… have at it, I say.
A lot of authors are getting their rights back, and raising. I think it should be illegal not to say it’s a reissue, or edited whether lightly or heavily. Lol. I am serious though
I think they almost always do–it might be required under copyright laws.
“I think it should be illegal not to say it’s a reissue, or edited whether lightly or heavily.” While I see your point, I think that would be a problem for independently published authors who may just need to fix a typo here and there versus a major overhaul.
As for copyright laws, I am no expert in this field, but I can tell you that copyrighting a written work is a lot different than it was before the late 1970s. This is largely due to a bill introduced/backed by Sonny Bono and the Walt Disney Company. Before the passage of this bill, authors, movie studios, and other artists had to go through a lot of rigmarole to secure copyrights. The process was so exacting and complicated, in fact, that a lot of works became public domain immediately upon release due to technicalities. Night of the Living Dead is a famous example of this phenomenon. The 1963 Audrey Hepburn film Charade also became public domain upon release because the opening credits said “Universal all rights reserved,” but somebody forgot to put the word “copyright.” Plus, copyrights had to be renewed every so many years. So if a studio with a lot of titles or a publisher with a lot of books forgot to refile, tough luck. The work became public domain.
Well, Bono and The Walt Disney Company decided to put a stop to these iffy practices. The Walt Disney Company definitely had the motive of keeping Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain from age. So, in a controversial decision, copyright protections were extended decades longer than they would have been under the old system- with no renewals required- to the point where nothing would enter the public domain again until 2019. But a good side effect of this bill is to protect writers and other creators from being cheated out of their intellectual property due to downright sneaky technicalities.
In short, if you write a story nowadays, the copyright is automatic. Every time someone publishes something through KDP. Boom! It’s automatically the property of the author. Are there some potential legal complications that could arise from not officially filing a copyright someplace? Sure. But for self-publishers in particular, I would argue that the “new” copyright rules have been a godsend.
Something I’ve been wondering… is this something that mostly happens in genre fiction? Is it more frequent in romance?
I’ve written upthread a couple of times about recent attempts (misguided, in my opinion) to revise historical literary texts. As far as genre revisionism, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if romances are particularly prone to a desire to want to revise unpalatable ideologies from published books. The genre is to my mind perhaps the most politicized of all genres because it directly confronts views on gender, sexuality, race, class, etc. in an attempt to bring two people together and negotiate for a life partnership.
Mysteries are the only other genre I read and the book that comes to mind immediately is Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” previously titled “Ten Little N__s,” (!!!) and now titled “And Then There Were None.” If the original title of “Ten Little N__s” had remained in place, that would have landed the book on the dust heap of history. I’ve read the book and even seen the play in London and I think this might be a case where a title revision worked out really well did not impact the content. In fact, the title “And Then There Were None” is spot on for the events that occur.
Yes, the Christie title was changed to “Ten Little Indians” for a while, and ended up as “And Then There Were None” which, I agree, is probably the most appropriate title for it anyway!
I’m not familiar enough with it to know if anything of the actual text was changed though. And that’s the only other example I can come up with in genre fiction for adults, although as Nan rightly points out, there have been several YA books in recent years that have been withdrawn or rewritten in the light of complaints over certain issues – there was a new controversy just this week, I believe.
I used to be huge Christie reader when younger and if I’m not mistaken, only the wording of the children’s counting rhyme within the story was changed from “little Indians” to “little soldier boys,” aside from the title, to remove racist language.
I don’t remember ever seeing it any other genre.
I haven’t seen revisions like this in other genres for adults, but I have heard of a few YA novels getting pulled pre-production because of online complaints (I assume from ARC reviews?) Plus, it was a pretty big deal that Laura Ingalls Wilder responded to a criticism of the Little House Books back in the 1950s IIRC when a reader pointed out that it was dehumanizing of her to say something like, “In the old days, no people lived out on the plains- just Indians.” (You know, as though American Indians weren’t people.) Wilder was actually shocked how her own words came across and changed the line. While the books are still highly problematic, maybe Wilder would have made additional changes if she lived in the 21st century.
But I think there’s a huge difference between altering books for adults vs children. For one thing, children have developing minds that are greatly influenced by everything around them. Also, if they are assigned reading in school, they may not have a choice about reading something that is hurtful or dehumanizing. But as adults, we have grown brains and lots of choices on how to use them. My big beef is when adults get treated like children when it comes to our entertainment preferences.
Wilder is, again, a complex case. This is a good article about her and her books perspective on Native Americans.
Excellent article, Dabney! I hadn’t read that one before. Thanks for sharing.
This is just the type of thoughtful critique I would like to see more of that highlights both the positive and the negative rather than broad, scathing statements like, “This is a racist mess.”
BTW, I think AAR is excellent in this regard when it comes to reviewing romance novels.
Thank you. We try.
I prefer the “write a new preface explaining what is no longer acceptable to the author” gambit rather than cleansing or re-writing an already published/established novel.
The enthusiasm of some of the people who’ve commented here for policing books would cause Ray Bradbury to roll over in his grave. It’s scary.
I just watched Hamilton–I’ve seen the play twice but watching it with subtitles was a revelatory experience. One of the most striking aspects of the play is its acceptance of the warts on our heroes–even Jefferson and Burr are portrayed with sympathy. Hamilton cheats on his wife and she forgives him and the play clearly does too. The show is a rousing love story to America’s inception with its flaws and glories.
I remain discomfited by the obliteration of works of art that we, today, find offensive. If one believes, hopes even, that the arc of history trends upwards, that we become better as we evolve, it’s inherent that those in the past will strike us as troublesome. And yet, we wouldn’t be here without the work those who preceded us did. It’s fine to say that today we wouldn’t do or say something that was done or said in an earlier era. But to dispense with the actions and words of those in the past completely strikes me as a bad plan.
And of the three (Jefferson Burr and Hamilton) Hamilton, despite his infidelity, is probably the most “politically correct” of the three. Jefferson used to be mentioned all the time by Democratic politicians, most memorably JFK and Clinton. There was a feeling that Democrats always liked to claim him as a precursor to the Democratic Party (even though he was really the opposite in many ways and hated centralized or big government). Now they wouldn’t be caught dead talking about a guy who pretty much everyone agrees was fathering children on one of his slaves, which was an open secret for centuries apparently. Yet despite this truly horrifying behavior The Declaration of Independence wouldn’t exist as we know it without him. He was the Yin to Hamilton’s Yang and provided a certain balance to the country in his day. Do we scrub him from the history books or just accept that very flawed people can do some very good things?
I feel about Jefferson as does NYT columnist Timothy Egan. In his recent column about the unfinished promise of the American revolution he wrote:
“Each of the Rushmore presidents furthered the ennobling sentiments of men who tried to fashion a democracy from a revolution. Some may never forgive Washington for his slave ownership. But among the nine presidents who owned slaves, only Washington freed them all in his final will.
He also kept the United States from becoming a monarchy when the Trumpians of the day wanted to make him king.
Jefferson was a slaveholding racist who wrote “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. The words outlive, and outshine, the man.
Lincoln needs no defense, except to say that those who want to destroy his statues now should read Frederick Douglass’s nuanced take. Lincoln fought the anti-immigrant Know-Nothings, the Trumpians of his day, and ensured that the radical truths of Jefferson would apply to four million formerly enslaved people.
Teddy Roosevelt was no friend of the continent’s original inhabitants. But he evolved. His Rough Riders were multiracial warriors. And as the 20th century’s most influential progressive president, he invited Booker T. Washington to dine with him, the first time any president had broken bread with a Black man at the White House. This, at a time when it was difficult for a Black man to get a meal in a restaurant.
Each of them pushed the revolution closer to an ideal of true equality. And Roosevelt was the first to add universal health care among the truths we hold self-evident.”
In light of the fuss about the Emancipation statue in Washington, DC that has a black man kneeling at Lincoln’s feet, we should remember Lincoln’s own words. When he visited Richmond, VA shortly after it was retaken by the Union army, a freed black man did kneel at his feet. He told the man to rise and kneel only before God. I think that statement says so much about Lincoln, the man, and about American values in general.
Like almost all great leaders, Lincoln was a complex, flawed man. In his 1858 debates with Douglas, he bristled at the idea that whites and Blacks were equal, saying: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” he began, going on to say that he opposed Blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with whites.’ His views changed over time and by 1865 he believed in limited Black suffrage for those who fought for the Union during the Civil War.
He, like Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and most of the leaders of his time held views we now find abhorrent. And yet, he is consistently chosen by historians as the greatest president this nation has ever had. Do we shutter the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials as well as the Washington Monument? It’s unclear to me where the current move to tear down and remove statues and monuments will end.
These leaders were only human, and men of their time. The fact that they were able to even understand the notion that ‘all men are created equal’ is frankly amazing. They were trailblazers, but they had feet of clay just as we all do. I say let’s honor them for what they accomplished and try to learn from their failings.
Can we have discussion about Hamilton? I agree that seeing it on TV made me see it in a new light.
Did you like it more or less? What changed for you?
I know it primarily from listening to the soundtrack. I saw one of the touring productions, but did not appreciate the subtleties.
Hamilton was a truly flawed individual. I originally interpreted the musical as lauding Hamilton as the “forgotten Founding Father.” But now I see that he was actually his own worst enemy.
Also, listening to the soundtrack, I focused mostly on Lin-Manuel Miranda as the star. Watching Leslie Odom Jr, Christopher Jackson, and Daveed Diggs, I realized that their acting truly propels the story.
I found it interesting that changing the medium changed my perceptions.
I loved seeing the movie after enjoying the stage production twice. I picked up on so many subtleties and nuances that I missed previously. Even listening to the soundtrack again has been enlivened by seeing the movie version.
This basically sums up my experience more eloquently:
So it’s only natural, when listening to the album, to imagine Miranda as the star. Certainly, Miranda richly deserves accolades for having written Hamilton’s zealously intricate lyrics and music, which manage to reference everything from hip-hop to gospel to Gilbert and Sullivan. But seeing the original cast perform, whether onstage or in the film, also reinforces how much this musical isn’t a story about one guy, one star. It doesn’t prop up the “great man” theory of history at all. Instead, Hamilton positions its namesake as a piece in a grander puzzle, showing how his conflicts and congress with others, his failures and successes, combine with others’ strengths and weaknesses to move history along.
Like you, I have listened to it ad infinitum since the soundtrack was released. I can – and do, to the chagrin of my household – sing/rap damn near the entire album at this point and could do the first three songs in my sleep. As a history buff and musical theater nerd it was the perfect convergence of my interests and I would not have guessed just how much I missed by not having seen the performance on stage. But oh man, how much I missed! So much nuance is added by the performance.
Anyway, to your point about it not being the ‘great man’ performance – yes! I’ve seen a critique floating around from Alex Nichols, who never saw the play but has Great Concerns about how popular it was amongst the DC elite, promoting the theory that Hamilton, by diversifying the cast, erases the disdain and horror we should all have by the actions and lives of the founding fathers, and the glossy finish Lin-Manuel Miranda gives to them by the exclusion of conversations around slavery and elitism.
And you know, with any work of art your mileage may vary by interpretation, but it bugs me because my takeaway from Hamilton, aside from the jaw-dropping lyrical genius and musical history knowledge of LMM, is that it is ultimately a story about the perils and consequences of an unchecked pursuit of power.
To me, Hamilton is ultimately a story of what makes America great… even though we have much about our history that isn’t great. Both things are true in Hamilton–leaders are flawed, deals are cut, and yet this is a nation where a bastard immigrant, young, scrappy, and hungry, became an architect of the nation. Hamilton pushes us to fulfill Washington’s dream of “the benign influence of good laws under a free government.” It’s an aspirational story, designed to call to our better, multi-cultural angels.
I recently listened to the audiobook version of My Sinful Nights. The Amazon blurb ends with this:
While it was good, it was difficult for me to keep the old version and the new version separate. I liked the change to first-person. But the idea of revising older books and renaming them bothers me.
I would be incredibly disappointed to purchase a book (or audiobook) and discover that it’s a book I’ve already read, just revised/rewritten. I’m glad Ms. Blakely’s book has the above blurb (it’s in bold on the Amazon listing). I hope she and other authors continue to alert their faithful readers, so we know what we’re getting, when we grab a “new release”.
I’ve been known to purchase additional copies of a (print) book, for the newer covers. I might even purchase revised books — but I want to know up-front that is what I’m buying (or borrowing from Kindle Unlimited, Audible Escape or my library).
First you are censored, then you censor yourself. That’s what Kleypas as done to herself.
We, as a society, need to stop seeing historical figures, tv programs, movies, books, etc. as either good or bad, right or wrong. Life is complicated, and grownups should be smart enough to accept complexity. People gain great insight into the past by knowing its novels, movies and tv, and art, with its intact prejudices and values. Klan literature is not the same as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a text that moved a whole country toward abolition.
Should the future discard today’s art because it won’t reflect their values, then? If a future society sees eating meat as a universal sin against animals and the environment, what if nobody can buy “A Christmas Carol” because Scrooge joyfully buys a turkey and goes to his nephew’s Christmas dinner? What if today’s heroes are discarded because they didn’t address climate change?
I agree that art should not be revised, and I’m not at all in favor of book banning or censorship. However, I’m not sure I agree when you question the practice of discarding art because it won’t “reflect their values.” I wouldn’t hang a racist painting on my wall in my home. Is that discarding art inconsistent with my values? I would think so. I say that because I have an uncle who lives in a restored Civil War mansion in the South and his home is filled with racist and confederate memorabilia. I went to a party at his home years ago and was horrified/fascinated by what I saw.
I believe we should be critical of all art in the sense that we use critical thinking skills to assess it. So, yeah, it’s fine to be critical of meat eating and climate change denying if you can make an argument for why those practices are harmful. I personally wouldn’t celebrate a climate change denying hero, lol, and I remember being critical in a review I wrote for Lisa Kleypas’s Smooth Talking Stranger because of the book’s criticism of vegetarianism and adoration for conflating the alpha hero’s meat eating with his masculinity.
Do you/can you apply that across the board though? I can give you a list of companies that from profited from being involved in the Holocaust up to and including Nestle and I bet you currently do or have used them. Bayer aspirin? Chase Bank? Coca Cola? Ever ridden in a Volkswagen? Listened to Wagner’s music?
You would be shocked at the amount of medical companies and medical device manufacturers that have roots back to Nazi Germany. Some even changed their names to sound less German. If you have had some medical procedure there is a good chance the technology used comes from one of these companies. If I had to try to find companies less than a few years old that didn’t have some kind of bad history or association I am not sure I could do it. I have an IPad and an iPhone and the way Apple exploited/exploits workers in China upsets me to think about it.
I feel like every day I am assessing some new level of decision making. Do I never watch Rosemary’s Baby again because of my disgust at Polanski? Or Match Point because I truly believe Woody Allen is a molester? D.W. Griffith basically created feature length movies as we know them and is the father of modern cinema but had the Klan as the heroes in Birth Of A Nation. Should we burn his films that survive?
I’ve seen people online that cancelled wedding vendors because they found out they voted for a Republican and others who cancelled vendors because they support Black Lives Matter.
Actually no, I would not be shocked whatsoever. Educating oneself about the function of exploitation and profit is crucial. Not all of us are capitalists, you know, but we are all implicated in a capitalist system. I doubt I would be surprised by insidious connections between corporations and white nationalism. My personal view is that education and critical thinking are crucial. As a teacher, I never teach art or cultural products outside of a requisite analysis of power structures, including economic ones. I also believe that capitalism is integrally connected to racism and patriarchy.
I too like Woody Allen films but also agree with you that he sexually exploits young women. So what do we do with that knowledge? Boycott the next Woody Allen film and pat ourselves on the back? Consuming or not consuming is not the core of the issue. Addressing the systemic and unequal power of in our society is the issue. People get weirdly worked up about the symbolic issues — Gone with the Wind or Confederate monuments — but rarely move beyond that. And people who cancel BLM are implicated in so much more than merely canceling a product like a vendor. I keep reading and studying and writing and voting and teaching daily. I support local activism and participate in my hometown. I’ve been a Marxist feminist since my undergrad days and I know how hard it is to think differently in America of all places.
Beautifully summarized, Chrisreader. I’ve often said the world is full of problems, but we do have to live in this world. And unless you want to be a total back to the Earth homesteader who builds and grows everything from scratch (props to you if you are!), that means we are going to be consuming from companies with shady practices- either past or present.
I am 100% convinced that Kleypas is doing this out of fear after the uproar over “Hello Stranger” and what amounted to a few lines of her dialogue. To me it just goes to show how targeted and random these Internet uproars are as I read far worse content by a popular author at the time that no one batted an eyelash at. I’m sure there are many, many more examples out there.
I found that whole kerfuffle silly and pandering.
Yes and yes.
What also gets me are why romance writers are targeted for internet uproars in the first place. Is this a sign that the genre is being taken seriously enough now to warrant that kind of energy and vitriol?
And on that note, isn’t romance supposed to play to a certain kind of emotional fantasy? I’m not saying, “Yay, racism!” but for a lot of readers, the alleged exoticism that is so often criticized is a big part of the attraction. You look at Harlequin Presents, for example. This is an entire line of over the top foreign characters and situations that still exists in 2020. In fact, the tagline on their website reads, “Be swept into a world of luxury, wealth and exotic locations.” (Emphasis mine). Will they be the next targets of the easily offended, ready to snap PC crowd?
This reminds me of a post I read on eroticaauthors on Reddit the other day. An aspiring writer and self-proclaimed feminist wrote a huge rambling paragraph about how she wanted to write XYZ but was scared to death of misrepresenting minorities, afraid to offend non-cishet readers with possibly shaky representations, etc. Most of the commenters replied with the equivalent of, “Uh, Lady, you’re trying to write a sexy story, not a political treatise. People don’t read smut to become politically enlightened. They’re reading it to get off. And nobody wants a politically correct sexual fantasy, which is what you’re going to be selling- a fantasy.”
Granted, romance and erotica are two different creatures. But isn’t there some overlap in their purposes? Isn’t romance supposed to provide us with a sweeping fantasy of a hard-won HEA? What constitutes a great romance is going to differ from reader to reader, of course, which is why variety is essential. I can definitely see why someone wouldn’t like the stereotypes that used to be so commonplace. But what about readers who like the iffy characterizations and dubcon that so many of us now decry? And as Beverly Jenkins once said (paraphrasing from memory here), “But what about women who like stories about being ravished?”
In short, we’re grown-ups. No one is forcing us to read anything we don’t want to read, and we can choose to set aside books we find offensive. But aren’t other readers allowed to enjoy the narratives we think are horrid?
I think one thing the Medieval Romance novel discussions here have really hammered home is that Historical Romance is really in many ways “Fantasy Historical Romance”.
Very few people (including myself) want to read 100% historically accurate romance novels. I don’t want to think about the missing teeth, rampant disease, human waste and body odor when I’m reading a romance. So 19th century novels set in England are just as much a “fantasy” in many ways as these over the top “exotic” harlequin romance novels set in “far off lands” that never really existed. The English peer is fetishized probably more than any male category alive with millions of readers picturing a young Colin Firth sweeping aside all family and money concerns to marry for love. (Which along with the never ending supply of hip, woke Dukes is SUPER ACCURATE).
I really believe it’s come to the point that the only romance where the writers are free to be as uninhibited and uncensored as they please is in the Erotic and Fantasy Romance, or a combination of the above. The characters pretty much have to be aliens or alternate universe cyborgs at this point to do anything remotely Un PC or scandalous and get away with it.
“I really believe it’s come to the point that the only romance where the writers are free to be as uninhibited and uncensored as they please is in the Erotic and Fantasy Romance, or a combination of the above.”
I think that’s unfortunately true, and one of the many reasons why I got into the erotica short story racket in the first place. I remember one woman who gave a PowerPoint presentation on the subject said something like, “Don’t worry about getting a lot of reviews for your work. Chances are, you won’t get *any* reviews for your work. Because who is that special someone who’s going to sit down and write exactly what they thought about the sex story you wrote?”
And let me add that it’s extremely liberating. Because, seriously, what is a perpetual complainer on Twitter going to say- “This 5,000 word X-rated interracial BBW spanking story I just read is littered with racist stereotypes?” Who would take that reviewer seriously? (Although in fairness to erotica readers and writers, some people have higher storytelling standards than others. :)) And who would be shameless enough to post a complaint like that to begin with? (Some people, yes, but hardly enough to cause the kind of firestorm romance authors get subjected to these days.)
OK, first thank you for making me literally LOL with that last paragraph. I’m still chuckling. And you are absolutely correct that the more “out there” the reading is in general, the less likely people are going to cop to reading it their expansive and/or scathing reviews. I just got sucked into the most improbable, unlikely, series on Kindle Unlimited and I’m not screaming about it to all and sundry.
“…thank you for making me literally LOL with that last paragraph.”
You are welcome, Chrisreader! I aim to please.
“I just got sucked into the most improbable, unlikely, series on Kindle Unlimited and I’m not screaming about it to all and sundry.”
Isn’t KU great for stuff like that? I don’t have a subscription, but when I see some of the really out-there books and shorts, I’m almost tempted to sign up just out of perverse curiosity. And let’s face it, sometimes we just want to dig into some embarrassingly improbable fun. :)
That was my first thought, too, Chris. I would be very surprised if the author hasn’t become extremely cautious after that episode which was, as Dabney says, silly and pandering.
I was completely surprised at the time that, of all books and content, that was the one that everyone decided to jump on. It felt very calculated to me-like Kleypas is such a big selling and popular author it would get a lot of attention.
I thought she couldn’t have been more gracious about it or quicker to act but I do also think these revisions are her way of trying to protect herself from another online barrage.
With all due respect to everyone here, and at the risk of opening a can of worms, isn’t the very essence of being “privileged” the ability to shrug off “problematic” content/culture and say that its no big deal and people should just get over it and move on? That’s certainly easier to do if you’re NOT part of the group being marginalized/otherized/fetishized or being represented by negative stereotypes. If a writer looks back on some earlier work and realizes that it in some way does not acknowledge the essential humanity of a particular group, that writer has every right to update her material as she sees fit. And all of us have the right (I’d say, the responsibility) to revisit old “favorites” with new eyes and determine whether or not we can still enjoy them in light of all their “problematic” elements.
“…isn’t the very essence of being ‘privileged’ the ability to shrug off ‘problematic’ content/culture and say that its no big deal and people should just get over it and move on?”
The increasing problem I’m seeing is that the social media critics keep dredging up dirt on stuff written years ago instead of turning their attention to more productive ventures. You’ll notice that few of them actually create anything but destructive rants that can ruin authors’ reputations or threaten their livelihoods. I have little empathy for those who seek to destroy rather than create. Discussing a work intelligently is one thing; throwing a tantrum about it is another. (And before anyone accuses me of tone policing, I regard critique far differently from someone shouting on the internet, “OMG! Racist! Somebody fire this person!” The latter is a tantrum that should be ignored and is, unfortunately, too often listened to.)
Are there problems in mainstream publishing? Absolutely! I don’t deny it for a minute. But with self-publishing being easier than ever, I find fewer and fewer defenses for firestorms against authors who dare to say anything that doesn’t toe their party line. You don’t like how X culture was portrayed or how Y was stated? Write your own book, and let that be your rebuttal. And don’t tell me about gatekeepers and whatnot, because you spend enough time writing rants calling for author contracts to be revoked and old texts to be expunged. You could use that energy instead to create a story people want to read and/or that you want to tell. Go ahead. Then tell me how easy it is to be a writer.
This reminds me of the trouble I got into on the AAR topic about historical romance. My comment, which I do not care to repeat here, set off an 800+ comment firestorm on Twitter. But the one that stuck out to me was the woman who said something like, “I’m so mad, I’m going to write a story starring nothing but (insert controversial example here)!” You know what I strongly suspect that person did? Nothing, because she struck me as just the type who sits around itching to be offended by something, and then moves onto the next person to tear down when the topic grows stale. I know the type. But if she did write that book, more power to her. I wish her luck with it.
As for being “privileged” vs “marginalized,” there’s certainly a narcissistic privilege involved when someone has so much time on their hands, they can’t think of anything better to do than snipe at authors. You’ll notice also it’s the author who almost always gets the blame rather than the publishing houses, which have known problems with representation.
I can certainly understand and respect the sentiment of wanting to repair past wrongs. I have a couple of concerns though about the revisionist movement. First, I teach literature and most of the authors I teach are long dead and so revision only applies to living authors, unless an author’s estate gets involved and tries to amend an artist’s work. That did happen a few years ago with Mark Twain’s writings to great consternation in academia. I think when it comes to literature, it’s important to read texts as historical artifacts as much as art, and so it would be negligent to amend historical texts in an effort to suggest that injustices didn’t exist. Second and less important, revision could create a situation where authors are constantly feeling pressured to revise their older books to keep up with changing attitudes and all books remain works in progress. My own preference is that authors not reissue books at all, but if they are reissued, have authors who feel that an updated sentiment is needed to write an author’s Foreword and address the topic head on there. Oceanjasper made a great point above too that revision could alter an older text significantly, and so much so that it bears little resemblance to its original. Taking out a few offensive words is unlikely to impact a misoygnist or racist books, for example. I can think of one very troubling and very popular romance novel where revision would require dismantling. Wouldn’t it be better for an author to write new fiction in light of where they are at in the moment on these topics?
I have a good example of a book that could not be successfully revised without losing the element that makes it compelling: Patricia Gaffney’s To Have and to Hold. I loved it the first time I read it 20 years ago, but when I tried it again a few years ago I was repulsed and couldn’t finish it. So I didn’t finish it, I read something else…. If other readers still love it, that’s OK with me. I would never expect the author to radically revise the book, and any such attempt would be doomed to failure because it would have to become a different book.
That novel is a famous work by a significant author in the genre. We all love to analyse romance novels and and debate their themes and merits. We couldn’t do that if authors were to constantly revise their texts. My message to authors is: I think that is undervaluing your work and its place in the history of the genre. Romance novels are a way of tracing social attitudes and we can learn from reading earlier books. There are plenty of ways authors can make their current values clear without meddling with the stories people may have loved. If your book is revised soon after publication, that’s a different matter. But years after the fact, it’s a product of its time, let it be.
Agree! I would hate for romances from the 90s to undergo mass revision even though so many of them feature discriminatory views. The 1990s represent history and you are correct too that the romance genre relies on a shared history. There is a troubling practice of shaming people for having biased views when they were younger, but I always tend to believe anyone who says they have evolved on an issue. We all evolve over time and change our ways of thinking.
Gaffney’s To Have and to Hold is a great example of a really interesting and troubling novel. I don’t know if I could reread it today and I know that I would certainly be critical of it if I did. I also though would not want the author to revise it and have a difficult time imagining what those revisions would do to the original book. I was thinking of Linda Howard’s Dream Man and how much the novel relies upon transphobia to render the serial killer especially traumatic to the heroine and the victims. There is also in that book a fascinating comparison between the ubermasculine Dane who maintains social order and the feminized trans villain who is a threat to everyone. The politics of the book are ugly but fascinating and certainly representative of what lots of people were feeling.
I wholeheartedly agree with this, and many of the comments here. I did enjoy the Gaffney when I read it a few years ago (and reviewed it here), but I absolutely recognised certain aspects of it as problematic. The same is undoubtedly true of other books people have mentioned (Whitney My Love is another one), and I agree with whoever said that the drive to remove anything that may be remotely offensive is a) impossible as there is always someone who will be offended by the one thing the author never thought of! and b) it’s treating the audience like children who have to be protected from anything and everything nasty. It reminds me of some things I read years back about people calling for certain texts used for English degree courses in the US to be effectively “bowdlerised” in case the students – who, surely, were 18/19 year olds – were traumatised by it!
Ultimately, I think it’s important to be able to look back and see how far we’ve come. As adults, we can make choices, and if an author does exercise their right to make changes, I’d like that to be explained so I can make an informed choice. For many, who haven’t read the older versions of these books, it won’t matter. In fact, I am going to be listening to and reviewing this version of the Kleypas for AudioGals, and I confess that I haven’t read the original version, so if I hadn’t seen those reviews at Audible, I’d have been none the wiser. But I’m nonetheless not a fan of revisions unless they’re to fix typos, editing or factual errors.
The conscious decision to re-issue, to me, is a decision to stand by the book again in the moment you’ve released it. You are certainly deciding to profit from it, and that’s where I think it becomes offensive and problematic. If you are willing to profit from a book which, say, has a creepy “half-breed Native brave” stereotype in it in 2020, then it doesn’t really matter that the book was written in 1985.
So I’d agree that if you have a book in your back catalogue that has issues, you probably ought to leave it there. If someone calls you out on it, you can simply say, “I was dumber then. I have made the conscious decision not to re-issue it and profit from something that is offensive.”
I do not agree that authors should go back and redo their books because of problematic elements. The books exist in the time period they were written in, even if the author now cringes about the views they had held then and even if those views were and are grossly wrong. Authors should either not reissue those books, or preface the books with an introduction stating all the problematic elements that exist in the stories–sort of like content warnings. This allows the writers to own up to their changed views and also allows readers who may have enjoyed the problematic elements to not feel gypped even if these readers’ views were wrong then and are wrong now.
Hoo boy. I am about to stoke the flames again, aren’t I? Here are some thoughts from an author on the trend of revisions in any genre of adult literature:
Frankly, I find this trend disturbing and worrisome. Scrubbing away problematic content in past works is a form of erasure. It’s essentially saying, “Let’s pretend this never happened and wipe out every trace of anything that a 21st century crusader might find offensive.”
Now, should authors have the right to change their past work if they aren’t happy with it? Of course. But how many of these revisions genuinely arise from the authors themselves versus publishers putting the pressure on them by waving the next advance or contract in front of them like a carrot/stick? It’s impossible to say. As I’ve said on some of my other controversial posts, my evidence of this is only anecdotal- things I have read or heard from fellow authors on the sly. But I think it’s safe to assume no big name author beholden to a publishing house is going to commit career suicide by saying, “Look, this is ridiculous. But I have to make these changes to a book I wrote 20+ years ago so my publisher won’t fire me and the masses won’t crucify me on social media, okay?” Nowadays, it seems one of the worst things you can do for your career is to tell your critics to shove off (even though I think more of that would be the antidote to some of our current issues).
As for adding disclaimer introductions to past work, I totally understand why authors do it to cover their butts, but it feels like more condescending hand-holding of adult readers to me. Plus, it has a tendency to come across as a self-loathing, groveling confession as in, “Oh, things were different then. But please don’t hate me for being such a sinner. (And, by the way, keep buying my books.)”
Furthermore, what is with these people on Twitter and elsewhere who seemingly have nothing better to do than find things to be offended about- whether in old literature or new? Have any of these complainers ever actually written anything original? I am firmly convinced these social media warriors are behind a lot of authors sweating it out in a futile effort to appease the unappeasable. And I’m guessing most of these folks don’t create jack tar, so I can’t take them seriously.
So my message to fellow authors is, “Stop it. Just stop it. Stop apologizing for and editing every controversial or problematic thing you’ve ever written, and move onto the next project. And guess what? No matter what you do, I guarantee you someone is going to be offended by it. So turn off the social media and just do what you were meant to do- write stories. And when people whine, as they inevitably will, just remember that if you bow down to their pressure, you lose a degree of self-respect. And the perpetually dissatisfied will find someone else to pick on regardless.”
To Nan De Plume, YES!
And I still can’t figure out why apparently sane adults pay any attention to Twitterstorms.
Ah, thanks, Lil. You’re a writer too, so you totally get it.
As for “why apparently sane adults pay any attention to Twitterstorms,” I think some of the fault lies with publishers themselves. More and more, I am seeing submission guidelines state that accepted authors are encouraged or required to do their own advertising and “be active on social media/have a social media presence.” It makes one question what the point is in having a publisher if they’re going to make the author do all the work. Even the editing has gotten sloppy in the last few traditionally published books I’ve read. Sometimes the covers aren’t so hot. But I digress.
Getting back to social media, I seriously doubt it has any significant bearing on an author’s sales these days. With so many authors Tweeting the equivalent of “Look at me! Look at me! I just published a new book!” how can their ad not get lost in the sea of other authors doing the same? Furthermore, those who create Twitterstorms are not going to be fans anyway, so why bother trying to placate them?
The one thing I can possibly see helping authors is negative press that generates curiosity. I know it worked for me in regard to Kathryn Lynn Davis’s book. If it hadn’t been for the firestorm, I probably never would have heard of her. I ended up reading the book in question (the original, controversial version) and enjoyed it. So, in a way, those who decry books for their content are just drawing more attention to it than if they kept their grumblings to themselves.
I must respectfully disagree with the objection to disclaimers. Attitudes do change, and one would hope (perhaps unrealistically) that people become more enlightened and compassionate with time. I read GWTW when I was about 12 and found the story of Rhett & Scarlett extremely romantic. When an adult I tried to reread it and could not; the blatant racism was too painful. I’m in the middle of reading Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist” and found in it the following passage which I think is relevant here: “Qui tacit consentire videtur is Latin for ‘Silence gives consent’. When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are consenting to these trespasses against us.” I don’t think a preface or afterword that acknowledges Scarlett’s compelling story but points out that the underlying racial attitudes are unacceptable is treating readers as children, nor do I think it means the author loses a degree of self-respect. I think it simply says “that was then and this is now” and now we don’t treat people as less because of the color of their skin and to do so is wrong.
I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about disclaimers then.
“Attitudes do change, and one would hope (perhaps unrealistically) that people become more enlightened and compassionate with time.” I hope so too, and I don’t think such hopes are unrealistic. Look at how much things have improved in the past century! There have been and are setbacks, but we mustn’t lose sight of a brighter future.
“‘Silence gives consent’. When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are consenting to these trespasses against us.” Eh, yes and no. Realistically, there are only so many battles one person can fight. And just because someone isn’t shouting something from the rooftops (or on Twitter) doesn’t mean the person is totally complacent. What I would rather more people do is write books of their own if they don’t feel heard rather than making pithy, scathing remarks that can hurt or destroy writers’ careers. Or, in the case of already published authors, I think they are better served to move onto the next project. Let readers decide if they like the evolution of the author’s views from the words written in the story rather than the forward. This is with the caveat, of course, that writers may do as they please (in theory, anyway. Authors under a publishing house have far less power than their critics often realize.)
Thank you saying this, Susan/DC! This is why it is so helpful and necessary to have ***diversity*** in all spaces, including online forums. We are woefully missing that here. Listening to my friends of color, colleagues, and online voices from the black community over the past few weeks, I have yet to encounter a single black person who has said that racism in representations should not be tagged or disclaimed. For goodness sake, we have tags for all sorts of categories, and even ratings to alert people about sex in a book. What I have heard though from communities of color is that, yes, we need to address symbols and representations, but then we need to move on quickly and address systemic racism. Don’t leave it at symbolism, or racism cannot be adequately addressed.
And Roxane Gay is fabulous, and I hope you are enjoying her iconic book!
“I have yet to encounter a single black person who has said that racism in representations should not be tagged or disclaimed.”
Here ya go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-GoLQeJKw4. YouTuber John Matrixx talks about GWTW having a disclaimer added on HBO. He says, “Nobody wants to see that… It’s a complete waste of time.”
Black people, like anybody else, are not a monolith. Everyone is an individual. Just because a person is a certain race, doesn’t mean they automatically agree with a certain opinion. Some agree with disclaimers and some don’t. And that’s okay.
I remember the furor over a recent Kleypas release because the hero learned his magical sex skills from an anonymous (and maybe dead?) exotic Indian woman. It was completely unnecessary to the plot and she was right to cut it, although she would have been right-er (and so would her agent and publisher) to have paid POC employees involved in book production who would have noticed this before it went to print.
I’m of the “do the best you can, and when you know better, do better” school (that quote coming from Maya Angelou). If you have a book in your back catalogue that you now recognize is problematic, either don’t rerelease it or change it to be a book you are willing to put your name on. If some readers don’t like the new you, there are others who didn’t like the old you. What’s more important is if you like and stand by your work yourself.
Not sure, Caroline, that it needs POC employees necessarily to spot the sort of problem that you are referring to. It seems to me that publishers should employ informed people of intelligence and discretion no matter who they are and who are capable of spotting the unacceptable or utterly ridiculous. And sometimes it seems to me that there is an apparent paucity of them in the industry. I do wonder, though, about refraining from re-releasing or changing a book can or should apply in all situations taking, for example, GWTW or even Uncle Tom’s Cabin into account. The former may now appal many readers and the latter bears a title that many see as offensive but would we toss them into the dustbin and never consider them again? I think most of us want to make up our own minds on this tricky and difficult issue. It’s all a bit of a quagmire and a tiptoe through treacle as we inch forward into better understanding of the world and ourselves. We all want to be better people but it’s not always a straightforward journey – that’s for sure!
Yes, to everything you said, Elaine S.
In regard to GWTW, I was irritated to read that HBO removed the title from their catalog- and then put it back up again with a four minute contextual disclaimer/introduction. Again, GWTW is a movie for an adult audience. HBO should treat their audience like adults instead of tacking on excessive hand-holding measures. It’s insulting. They don’t think grown-ups can separate fact from fiction, entertainment from history, cinematic epic from documentary? Maybe some of them can’t, but is that HBO’s problem? Grown-ups can choose whether or not to watch a film. And I’m guessing most of them don’t want to be lectured to before the overture.
From what I’ve heard, all these major movie studios are in trouble. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because they’re so busy trying to be politically correct rather than telling highly entertaining, compelling stories. So screenwriters, directors, studios- take some more chances rather than groveling and pandering. If you did that, we might have another film renaissance like the 1970s.
There’s a huge difference between posthumous alterations of another person’s work and the decision to revise your own work later in your career. That’s been standard practice in publishing since there’s been publishing! What’s weird to me is that people are acting like it’s an unprecedented invention of the “pc era.”
and yes, I’d love to see intelligent people of any race notice problems in text. But ignorant books getting published is not solvable without improving diversity in the whole publishing industry.
Oh, certainly authors have always been revising their work. In nonfiction especially, I would hope so as new facts come to light! But I think we are seeing a lot more prevalent examples of changing work to suit current standards. Has that always gone on? Probably, but it’s far more visible now with the internet.
“But ignorant books getting published is not solvable without improving diversity in the whole publishing industry.”
My concern is, will anything that remotely ruffles someone who is a bastion of political correctness be labeled “ignorant” and such stories never told again? Must every character, even the “good guys,” espouse 100% PC views in order to get published? I worry about the flattening out of complex characters who may have unlikeable viewpoints and behaviors, which seems to be the road we’re going down.
Do I want to see more narratives and stories explored? Absolutely! But I think publishers must be careful not to swing from one end of the pendulum to the other and thereby sacrifice equally valid tales on the altar of political correctness. (On an unrelated note, I need an editor to stop me from mixing metaphors…)
How do we define “ignorant” books? (Awaiting a flood of frowns for daring to ask the question.)
If the 20th Century taught us anything, one key concept is that the dangers of believing that only some voices or ideas should be allowed to be heard are profound. I have family who lives in Hong Kong and I am suddenly unwilling to text them and ask them any questions that might imply they are critical of the Chinese government. All over the world, it isn’t safe for people in so many countries to say something the government, often democratically elected, deems ignorant or seditious. We can see in our current government a deep desire to erode the freedoms of speech and press that make America great. (Yes, we’re a deeply flawed nation but our constitution is a marvel.)
The heady ideals of the French Revolutionaries led to the Terror, Lenin was a revolutionary socialist, Mao professed to remake society for the peasants. All were supported by people who genuinely believed in remaking society for what was supposed to be the better. There’s a reason we still are so drawn to Orwell’s Animal Farm. (Netflix is making it into a movie!)
It’s utterly true there are horrific ideas–I’m still scarred, decades later, from having read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. If we want to defeat them–and it’s worth starting with the worst rather than the trivial–we have to know they’re there and be able to discuss them.
Exactly, Dabney, I concur. This is why “ignorant” books need to be published. I live in great fear of anyone being silenced because their POV does not fit in with whatever the current woke “acceptable” stance is. All voices need to be heard, debated and weighed up by each individual reader. Frankly, the Bible, the Koran, Torah, Gilgamesh, etc., would probaby be rejected by some, maybe all, publishers today when you consider the content but not the context in which they were written. J. K. Rowling’s recent travails trouble me deeply.
Rowling is her own biggest enemy. “shakes head”
I think the real issue with Rowling is whether we separate the art from the artist.
Yes, and great point, Caroline! Diversity is always the right step. I’m in favor of more people of color being hired and put in positions where they can impact racism in all industries and move us to a better place. How did Kleypas’s exoticism trope get past the editing stage since the author failed here? The editors were not attuned to noting racism, and that is an issue that can be solved by ensuring more diversity exists at all stages. As a teacher I cannot imagine how my classes would function without broad representation and I witness this exact example in Week 1 of my writing course every single semester when students are required to read and respond to Langston Hughes’s “My Adventures as a Social Poet.”
I understand the fact that romance is particularly prone to being left behind by changes in social attitudes, and I don’t suppose an author wants their back catalogue to be full of books that are now unreadable (or shameful to admit you enjoy them) in a different cultural climate. But still, just no. It’s treating your readers like children. I can overlook the odd unfortunate expression uttered by a character, which reflects the book’s setting or the time when the book was written. But if the book needs major revisions for it to be deemed palatable today, then that would probably disrupt the integrity of the original characterisation or plot, making the book possibly less offensive to some people but a less satisfying reading experience for others. Better leave the original text as it is. And after all, it’s fiction, not real life! I’m outraged by racism, sexism, and religious and political fanaticism in real life, but in a book I either get over it or read a different book.
Well stated, oceanjasper. I completely agree with your statement, “It’s treating your readers like children.” This is a HUGE problem in today’s society where authors and other creators are afraid to say “boo” about anything and have to disclaimer the heck out of everything and have to justify everything they’ve ever written or else risk being pilloried on Twitter.
Absolutely agree. I’m opposed to revisions but it is true that just removing a word here or there isn’t likely to change the issue of misogyny and racism embedded into the text and integral to the story. I hope authors can look back on what they rewrote and reflect on issues and do better in the present.
I think it’s perfectly acceptable for a writer (or any artist) to edit/update/revise a piece of work they have created. (Think of all the times George Lucas tinkered with “Star Wars.”) I’m not saying I’d reread the revised book, but I believe it’s the author’s right to make changes. I recently read an article about Tina Fey removing some racially-insensitive material from episodes of “30 Rock” and one cynical wag referred to it as “pre-emptive legacy management.” I’m not sure what Kleypas has changed (I’ll duck after I say this, but outside of her first book, GIVE ME TONIGHT, I’ve never been able to get in to her books), but if it involves updating attitudes toward consent, marginalized people, otherizing, virginity fetishism, or rapey heroes, I can understand why she would want to do it. On the other hand, if she has simply changed the original plot/storyline, while I agree it’s her right to do so, perhaps a better solution would have been to write a new book and just change the characters’ names.
It all seems very strange to me.
This series was never available in its entirety on Audible UK, but (from memory) the books that were available could be bought in both an unabridged and an abridged version anyway. (Currently, Audible UK is only offering them in Danish?!)
So is it only the audio that has been revised and updated then?
I can’t see that it’s feasible for authors like Lisa Kleypas to go through their back catalogues to edit for dubious consent……………..
They might like to sort that blurb out though, and change ‘Gypsy’ to ‘Romany’!
He’s referred to as Roma in the book–I don’t think she ever uses the word gypsy to describe Cam.
Even more reason to change the blurb then!
I can recall only one romance novel where I (knowingly) read an “updated” version. That was Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake (1998) which was originally published as The Rake and the Reformer (1989). I never read the first version and so can’t really judge what exact changes she made. I loved the book, it still sits on the keeper shelf and the author included an explanation about what she had done in her update. In re-reading her explanation it seems that it was more a “polishing” the original version than making many changes to “update” it. I expect that as it was published 20/30 years ago it would now outrage some readers. I don’t mind inaccuracies being corrected in later editions – that’s common in non-fiction where new research arises – but I am not sure I would want any “sanitisation” of an author’s work. It reminds me of putting a fig leaf on Michelangelo’s sublime statue the David. If readers are concerned about “trigger” issues, then maybe the discussion we had about sensuality ratings needs revisiting so there is some way other than through the text of the review itself, they can be warmed. Otherwise, authors or publishers should do us the kindness of letting us know we are about to read a new “updated” version and what changes they have made and why. Then we the readers can make up our own minds.
I’d rather books be published as they were written with a preface by the author that explains how differently she sees the problematic issues now. Kleypas is still writing–it seems to me she is more than capable of telling new stories that reflect her perceptions now.
MJP wrote at the time Of publishing the expanded version that she wanted to tell the full story which she originally had to shorten to fit Signet Regency guidelines. I remember that she did this with a few books, and I read both versions, at the time. She was telling the same story, adding background and detail. I loved that because I loved her books, and felt like I was getting a deeper view into people I was invested in.
We are discussing here books getting adapted for changed sensibilities, so MJP would not fit that bill.
I cannot make up my mind about updating books.
When “Whitney my love” by Judith McNaught was reissued without the spanking scene (hero spanking heroine for misbehaving, treating her like a naughty child, plus, spanking as humiliating punishment) I was upset, because, loving or hating it, it was true to period, and it was obviously what the author wanted to tell, in the original version.
But over time, I thought: why not? I am allowed to learn over time, and I am allowed to bring my learning to my work, and show it.
My only true upset is when people try to hide their path, erase the old, pretend they did not think or ignore what they thought or ignored.
So, for me, a clear mention of a work being revised, and when, and ideally in which way for what reason, that works best. Then I can decide as a reader what I want to do.
If revising takes place due to changing cultural attitudes, then I’m not in favor. I think most readers understand that books are written at a moment in time and specific historical context. My own preference is that an author forego revision if reissuing a book and instead write a Foreword if they feel it’s important to address content that benefits from addressing.
This topic came up just recently with the RWA debacle when Kathryn Lynn Davis set about reissuing a romance from the 90s depicting what many felt were racist representations of Chinese women. I think Davis revised (excised?) the depictions that caused one of the scandals. Wow, was this explosive event in early January a harbinger for what followed in 2020!
I’m never in favor of altering published novels. Include a disclaimer, by all means if you feel it necessary. But don’t alter the text unless it’s for something minor like grammar or historical inaccuracies.
I recently re-read Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice, and I was quite shocked at how racist the language was. But I had read it 30 years ago and wasn’t disturbed. Times change, and we must change with them. However, I would never advocate going back and removing all the racial slurs and assumptions of white privilege in Alice, it’s a beautiful, classic novel and a snapshot of the era it depicts. It’s important to remember where we come from or we may end up back there again.
I am reading the uncut version of The Stand. King is one of the most liberal voices out there–his Twitter account exists mostly to excoriate the right, especially Trump–and yet The Stand, first published in 1978 and then revised (scenes added not cut) in 2008 is full of stereotypes and iffy language. It’s clearly not a reflection of a racist writer but rather of a writer writing in a time where we didn’t think as hard as we do now about those things.
The book itself is set in the early 80s and wouldn’t read as true if King had written it with an eye to his current (and I suspect earlier) values.
Right! I’m a literature teacher and teach “controversial” materials all the time. We study those materials as cultural and historical artificats as much as art. Most of the authors whose work I teach are no longer alive, and so revisionism almost only applies to contemporary authors anyway.
There was a movement some years ago to “clean up” Mark Twain’s Huck Finn because of the use of the “n” word, and so many scholars were aghast. Students can read Twain and understand the complexities of racism in the 19th century, and in fact, it’s important to do so. Sanitizing it doesn’t make the problem vanish.
I don’t understand the comparison between Twain and Kleypas. Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn in the decades immediately after slavery, and the book was about bigotry that was occurring contemporaneously, as can be seen in a lot of the language used. Lisa Kleypas wrote “Mine Till Midnight” 150 or so years after the fact, and it isn’t a book about the bigotry the Rom suffer. Even the blurb is offensive. “Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his “uncivilized” Gypsy roots.” It’s not like Kleypas is revising to gloss over attitudes of 1850s (or whatever year I don’t really remember) or to pretend sexism, racism, attitudes toward consent, or the slave trade, etc. didn’t exist in 19th century England, but to correct problems in a book she wrote in this century in which she presented a modern, idealized version of 19th century England.
“Even the blurb is offensive.”
Just as a heads up, traditionally published authors generally have zero say in blurbs, titles, covers, and cover matter. Chances are, the product description isn’t Kleypas’s fault.
The only version that has been altered so far is the audio version, and that blurb is different from the one Ellie refers to. There is no mention of Gypsy or Romany heritage. I don’t know why both print and audio versions were not changed at the same time, but it was pointed out to me that they have different publishers.
I love Mine Till Midnight, it is my idea of the perfect historical romance. So I was very curious about what changes had been made, and why. Therefore, I bought it and listened to the new one in its entirety. I only listened to a few key scenes from the old book since I’m pretty familiar with it. I honestly didn’t see much alteration in the sex scenes. I listened to the one specified in the above quote in both books, and two other other major ones in both books. The only change I noticed was Cam, the H, waiting for the still-virgin Amelia to object to his advances. Which she does not do, just like in the original. And it is identical from there. So I’m not quite sure what the reviewer is referring to about sanitizing the plot. It is entirely possible I forgot or missed something, but it is a book I’ve listened to many times and nothing comes to my mind.
The big change in the story was an entirely new character, an old beau of Amelia’s who broke her heart a few years previously. He is also a former co-worker of her brother. From the first it is obvious he is meant to be a heavy, but I found his character to be so poorly executed that it was almost laughable. He pops up at odd moments, mostly to break up an embrace between Cam and Amelia. I’m trying not to spoil the new plotline, but I will say that this addition of a character weakens the story imo. In spite of all the foreshadowing he ends being a bit of a joke. He is very one-dimensional, and (SPOILER!!!) in the end he just runs away.
I much prefer the old version, and it looks as if the entire series is being revised. If you want the originals, get them now! They are still available right now in print (not audio) if you still want to add them to your library. I confess I do not understand the reason for these changes since they don’t enhance the story. In my opinion, or course.
I wonder if The Wallflowers series is next on the hit list….
I’m confused, Christopher Frost was definitely in the original version if he’s the character you allude to. He’s the “bad guy” who broke Amelia’s heart and is very nasty to Cam because he’s a Roma. “Mine Till Midnight” is one of my favorite books so I am pretty upset it’s been changed. I also hope Kindle doesn’t mess with my ebook copy.
I think is directly a result of Kleypas being raked over the coals before with “Hello Stranger”. I found it incredibly puzzling that Kleypas was the one who was excoriated and made an example of for what was amounted to about two lines in her book, when other authors publishing at the same time period wrote far worse and not a word was said.
Christopher Frost might have been the name of one of the architects who turns up near the end of the original version. But his role in this altered version starts at the dinner party the Hathaways attend at Stony Cross Park. He was Leo’s former co-worker and he left Amelia for his boss’s daughter. It’s obvious from the heavy-handed way he’s introduced that he’s meant to be a threat of some kind. This character as he is now is not in the original audio version, perhaps he’s in the print version? Was there a storyline with hidden treasure in the print version? Because that’s what he’s after in this new version.
Yes, he’s introduced at the first dinner party and plays a role popping up all through to the end. That’s very strange he wasn’t in the audio version. Is there no antagonist in the audio version? Because then the only “problems” would be Leo’s behavior and Amelia’s uncertainty over getting married.
No, he’s not in the original audio version. So maybe this is a restoration of the text as it is in the book, and not really an alteration at all. This just gets weirder, huh?
I personally liked that the conflict was mostly in Amelia’s heart, and in her worry over Leo. When she finally yields to her feelings it’s lovely imo. The trope of a self-righteous ex-swain swaggering around is overdone in romance and it’s badly done here. This sort of notion is not Kleypas’ strong suit.. When she introduces an antagonist it’s often at the 11th hour and the character motives are murky. Here the bad guy comes in much sooner than that, but he’s not a well-defined character.