July / August 2011 Freelance

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write history. History is fact. Distortion of the history is lies, and lies are untruths. I still remember how strange it was to me to read The Mill on the Floss and realize that Maggie’s world was so extremely different from mine, but it would never have occurred to me to want to rewrite the book and put Maggie into Indian Head in the 1930s. What could anyone learn from that? There has to be a reason why these mis-guided writers and these even more misguided publishers are “transforming” the classics these days. The obvious reason is they see a new way to make money and money, of course, is now “god”. There may be another reason. They are

probably running out of ideas of their own, so why not steal from the great creative writers of the past and jazz them up a bit, make them attractive to the kind of young people who take drugs and sleep around? Let’s “modernize” the 19th century. Easy way to make a buck. Do I sound disgusted? I hope so. As an historian who has studied sociology and knows how the many threads of a culture enmesh at any point in history, this distortion is a horrendous error and it should definitely be illegal. If those classic writers were alive today they would be able to sue, but apparently we have no laws whereby someone can sue in their name. We should rectify that.

To change a writer’s book is the same thing as deliberately mis-quoting a speaker or falsifying an interview. It’s libel. It was my understanding that when a work was in the public domain we were free to quote freely from it. I didn’t know it meant we could misquote freely from it. Nobody can change the realities of the past by telling distorted fibs, but they can get a lot of young people very missed up in their view of the past. This latest game is not just a crime against writers, it’s a crime against history. Meantime we can all help by refusing to buy these newly reviewed books.


THE BELL MEDIA DIVERSE SCREENWRITERS PROGRAM Are you an early-career writer from a diverse background? Need help getting your foot in the door? The Bell Media Diverse Screenwriters Program is designed to help writers hone their craft and polish the pitch materials they need as their calling card to the TV industry. And one writer from each session will be selected for a paid internship on a Bell Media TV series. The Bell Media Diverse Screenwriters program includes a one-week intensive television-training workshop followed by mentoring with a professional writer. Western Canada Deadline – Sept. 6, 2011 (December program in Vancouver) Eligibility & Application details at www.wgc.ca