February 11, 2013

More on sacred texts

Sandra’s father’s family hails from a red-clayed corner of the Great White North. To the folks of  Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables is a sacred text. To many Japanese girls, the Anne stories are an inspiration beyond words. These stories tell of an orphan girl who is a adopted by an aging brother and sister and who thrives by wit, pluck, and imagination. There was a mix-up in the request to the Halifax orphanage. The couple was looking for a boy to help around the farm while the person arranging the adoption thought that they were looking for a girl about 11.
At the core of the story is the girl’s determination to survive life as a red-head. On first meeting,  Matthew Cuthbert remarks that her hair is red.

“Yes, it’s red,” she said resignedly. “Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy. Nobody could who has red hair. I don’t mind the other things so much–the freckles and the green eyes and my skinniness. I can imagine them away. I can imagine that I have a beautiful rose-leaf complexion and lovely starry violet eyes. But I cannot imagine that red hair away. I do my best. I think to myself, `Now my hair is a glorious black, black as the raven’s wing.’ But all the time I know it is just plain red and it breaks my heart. It will be my lifelong sorrow. I read of a girl once in a novel who had a lifelong sorrow but it wasn’t red hair. Her hair was pure gold rippling back from her alabaster brow. What is an alabaster brow? I never could find out. Can you tell me?

Because the Anne books are in the public domain, anyone can publish a new edition and publish they do. There are innumerable print and electronic editions as well as movie, television, and cartoon remixes. What’s newsworthy about another edition of a book about an 11-year-old, red-haired girl?
Here’s what:

Cover photo via Techdirt

As you’d expect, this edition, its cover since removed from the Amazon listing, unleashed a torrent of vitriol comparable to what might happen if a favorite sports hero appeared in a porn flick.
One takeaway message from all this is that, through our copyright laws and freedoms of press and speech, we can bring to market pretty much any full-tilt bozo idea of our choosing.