Clean Reader

I remember seeing something online somewhere which mentioned a Clean Reader App and I vaguely thought to myself that something like that would have been handy in the days when I was having to choose books for very straitlaced women within my own family. I thought it would just come up with suitable reading suggestions for those types who hate mentions of swearing and anything racy or too ‘near the knuckle’.

It never occurred to me that it was an app which removes what are seen to be offensive words and replaces them with words deemed to be more acceptable.

It was only when I read this article in today’s Guardian that I realised this.

Joanne Harris who wrote Chocolat is claiming a small victory after the couple behind the app removed all titles from its online catalogue.

I’m not a wild sweary beast myself although on occasions when no other words fit the moment I’m cursing with the best of us on a daily basis, just look at the news and that’ll get anyone swearing, but it seems to me to be madly arrogant to take it upon yourself to muck around with a writer’s words, without so much as a by your leave.

This whole idea seems to have been thought up by a couple who are of a religious persuasion who have set themselves up as censors of the written word. I bet you that when Jesus Christ was doing his stuff in the Holy Land he was not averse to using the odd swear word himself, he had good reason to after all. That turning of the tables in the temple would almost certainly have been accompanied by a good few blue words thrown at those moneychangers/rabbis! Those app people are setting themselves up to be better than Jesus Christ.

But I suppose this whole idea is just the extreme version of what has been going on over some years, like the updating of Enid Blyton’s books, changing the whole character of them and the expunging of that ‘n’ word from works written when it was actually common. It’s like trying to airbrush things out of history and that can never be a good thing.

Harris said on Friday: “I don’t see what changes they can make to stop it being an offensive app. But there is nothing which stops them from starting again quietly once things have died down. It’s a question of watching.”

And as writers applauded the announcement, others mourned it. One supporter of the app wrote: “The fact is that we readers would love to hear some of your creative stories without the icky unnecessary junk language.

“There are some really great and important literary works that are eliminated from our study because I’m not willing to compromise our standards. Not for myself or for our kids.”

Harris replied in a blogpost: “Shakespeare wrote icky unnecessary junk language. So did Chaucer, DH Lawrence, Philip Larkin, James Joyce.

“If a reader chooses to avoid reading my books, that’s fine. She has that right. If she hates it, that’s also fine. If she has opinions on how it could have been done better, that’s also fine, because she’s entitled to her opinion, whether I agree or not. BUT – her opinion does not extend to changing my work in any way. My book, my rules, and that includes my words. ALL of them.”