Writer Rachel Pollack, who reimagined the practice of tarot, dies at 77

Science fiction and comic book writer Rachel Pollack, who died April 7 at age 77, transformed tarot – from a practice once dismissed as an esoteric parlor trick, into a means of connection that felt personal, political and rooted in community. “We were trying to break the tarot free from what it had been, and open up a whole new way of being,” Pollack said in a 2019 interview with Masters of the Tarot.

Her 1980 book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom was named for the number of cards in a tarot deck. In it, Pollack explored archetypes that hadn’t been updated much since their creation in the 1400s. Based on rigid gender and class stereotypes, traditional tarot left little space for reinterpretation. Pollack reimagined it through the lens of feminism, and saw it as a path to the divine. She wrote a book exploring Salvador Dali’s tarot and even created a deck of her own called the Shining Tribe tarot.

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Agatha Christie Books Get Woke Makeover, Join Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming

The sensitivity readers have found another target: Agatha Christie.

Books by the acclaimed mystery author—who was born in the 19th century and passed away in 1976—have been edited, ostensibly to comport with modern sensibilities. “The new editions of Christie’s works are set to be released or have been released since 2020 by HarperCollins, which is said by insiders to use the services of sensitivity readers,” noted The Telegraph. “It has created new editions of the entire run of Miss Marple mysteries and selected Poirot novels.”

As was the case with recent edits to the works of Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming, the changes hardly seem necessary; there are few readers clamoring for them. The sensitivity readers, who are hired to rewrite texts and prevent offense, are making the books less colorful and descriptive. In the original Death on the Nile, some characters were described as Nubian—as in the ethnic group from the region of Nubia in northern Africa—but no longer. A character in The Mysterious Affair at Styles who was referred to as a Jew—because, well, he is a Jew—is now just a person. And a servant identified as black no longer has a race at all.

It’s one thing to change outdated ethnic references or references that specifically malign a specific race. Christie is no stranger to that: Her 1939 book, And Then There Were None, was originally published under the name Ten Little Niggers in the United Kingdom, where the racial slur was not as broadly offensive. (The book was named after a children’s rhyme.)

It’s quite another matter to delete all references to ethnicity because… why do it? Who is offended by knowing the race of a specific character? Should books cease acknowledging Africans, Jews, and Indians?

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James Bond books rewritten to remove ‘offensive’ references

Racial references have been removed from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels following a sensitivity review.

Terms such as the n-word, which featured in his writing from the 1950s and 1960s, have been edited out of new editions of the 007 books, which are set for reissue in April.

Some depictions of Black people have also been reworked or removed, but references to other ethnicities, including the use of a term for east Asian people and Bond’s mocking views of Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean henchman, remain.

Revised lines include Bond’s assessment in Live and Let Die that African would-be criminals are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much”, which has been changed to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought”.

However, references to the “sweet tang of rape”, “blithering women”, doing a “man’s work”, and homosexuality being described as a “stubborn disability” have been kept in, reported The Daily Telegraph.

A disclaimer accompanying the new editions is expected to read: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.

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Roald Dahl’s publisher to offer books ‘uncensored’ after backlash

On Friday, Puffin, the publisher of beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, announced they were releasing uncensored “classic texts” of Dahl’s body of work through their parent company, Penguin, following backlash. That backlash, from PEN America, readers, and lovers of literature was against the publishing house for making hundreds of changes to the works after “sensitivity readers” deemed some of Dahl’s original language offensive to modern readers.

According to the publisher’s website, “Puffin announces today the release of The Roald Dahl Classic Collection, to keep the author’s classic texts in print. These seventeen titles will be published under the Penguin logo, as individual titles in paperback, and will be available later this year. The books will include archive material relevant to each of the stories.”

The Managing Director of Penguin Random House Children’s division, Francesca Dow, said, “We’ve listened to the debate over the past week which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation.”

“As a children’s publisher, our role is to share the magic of stories with children with the greatest thought and care. Roald Dahl’s fantastic books are often the first stories young children will read independently, and taking care for the imaginations and fast-developing minds of young readers is both a privilege and a responsibility,” Dow said. “We also recognise the importance of keeping Dahl’s classic texts in print.  By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.”

The change comes after the Telegraph published details last week on how Puffin consulted with Inclusive Minds, a “collective for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature,” and subsequently made changes in the author’s language regarding mental health, violence, gender, weight, and race that ranged from full portions being rewritten or cut. 

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The War on Insensitivity

So, here’s a “conspiracy theory” for you. This one is about the global-capitalist thoughtpolice and their ongoing efforts to purge society of “insensitivity.” Yes, that’s right, insensitivity. If there is anything the global-capitalist thoughtpolice can’t stand, it is insensitivity. You know, like making fun of ethnic or religious minorities, and the physically or cognitively challenged, and alternatively gendered persons, and hideously ugly persons, and monstrously fat persons, and midgets, and so on.

The global-capitalist thoughtpolice are terribly concerned about the feelings of such persons. And the feelings of other sensitive persons who are also concerned about the feelings of such persons. And everybody’s feelings, generally. So they’re purging society of any and all forms of literary content, and every other form of content, that might possibly irreparably offend such persons, and persons concerned about the feelings of such persons, and anyone who might feel offended by anything.

By now, I assume you have seen the news about the “sensitivity editing” of Roald Dahl, the author of books like James and the Giant PeachCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryThe WitchesThe Twits, and numerous others. What happened was, Dahl’s publisher, Puffin Books, hired a little clutch of “sensitivity editors” to substantively rewrite his books, purging words like “fat” and “ugly,” and Dahl’s descriptions of characters as “bald” and “female,” and inserting their own ham-handed, “sensitized” language.

What you may not be aware of is that Puffin Books is a children’s imprint of Penguin Random House, a multi-national conglomerate publishing company and a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, a nominally German but in reality global media conglomerate. Penguin Random House is one of the so-called “big five publishers” that control approximately 80% of the retail book market. The other four are Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, and HarperCollins.

Together, these five corporate behemoths, with their hundreds of divisions, publishing groups, and imprints (e.g., Puffin Books), control the majority of what everyone reads. Pull a few books off your bookshelves at random and look up the imprints to see how many are owned by one of the “big five” publishers or one of their divisions or publishing groups.

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The rewriting of Roald Dahl should disturb us all

It’s easy to become inured to the madness of the culture war. Stories of Peter Pan being slapped with trigger warnings or God going gender-neutral are 10 a penny these days. They can sometimes wash over you. Not because they are unimportant – far from it. But because they are so ubiquitous. Every institution from the Wellcome Collection to Splash Mountain has fallen to some flavour of woke regressivism. Language is warped to flatter a few narcissists. Old art works and new are censored at the behest of hysterics. Such cases don’t surprise us anymore, no matter how deranged and illiberal.

But once in a while the authoritarians who make up our cultural elites outdo themselves – and remind us how much is at stake in this thing we call the culture war. The rewriting of the late Roald Dahl’s books is one such story. When the Telegraph revealed yesterday that Puffin, Dahl’s publisher, has made ‘hundreds of changes’ to his beloved children’s books, in line with suggestions from so-called sensitivity readers, the response was one of horror and disbelief. An author beloved by generations of children for his magical, spiky and sometimes sinister work has had his literary edges sanded off. All new copies will feature the newly cleansed text. Dahl’s words and stories will be changed forever, no longer truly his own, all because some weirdo with a red pen thinks they know better. The philistinism, the cultural vandalism, is stunning.

And what is it that so upset them? What is it that made these sensitivity readers conclude that Dahl’s books must be changed, so they ‘can continue to be enjoyed by all today’, in the words of Puffin? The word ‘fat’, for one. That’s gone from every book – sparing the blushes of characters like Augustus Gloop, the fat lad from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Oompa-Loompas are now no longer ‘titchy’ or ‘tiny’. Just ‘small’. They’ve also gone gender-neutral for good measure, with ‘small men’ swapped for ‘small people’. Perhaps most outrageously of all, whole lines have been rewritten and brand new lines added, seemingly to pre-empt any prejudice that might otherwise curdle in the minds of young readers. In The Witches, a line describing a witch posing as a ‘cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman’ now casts her as an aspirational girlboss, ‘working as a top scientist or running a business’.

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Shakespeare flagged as ‘far right’ literature in UK – media

Several of the UK’s most respected television shows, movies and works of literature have been included in a list of works that could potentially encourage far-right sympathies, compiled by the taxpayer-funded and government-led ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism programme, according to the Daily Mail.

Works by JRR Tolkien, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and even William Shakespeare, as well as classic movies ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ and ‘The Great Escape’ were cited in a list published by the British paper on Saturday as being highlighted by the counter-terrorism watchdog, for their potential use by far-right agitators to promote troublesome viewpoints online.

“This is truly extraordinary,” historian and broadcaster Andrew Roberts said of the list to the tabloid. “This is the reading list of anyone who wants a civilized, liberal, cultural education.

“It includes some of the greatest works in the Western canon and in some cases – such as Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Secret Agent’ – powerful critiques of terrorism. [Edmund] Burke, Orwell and Tolkien were all anti-totalitarian writers.”

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It’s Time To Save Literature From The Woke Publishing Industry

Joyce Carol Oates is a fixture in American letters — she’s won the National Book Award, two O. Henry Awards, the National Humanities Medal, the Jerusalem Prize, and she’s been nominated for the Pulitzer five times. She taught at Princeton for 36 years, and is, of course, an outspoken Trump critic. A Google search for “Joyce Carol Oates” and “feminist” yields more than half a million results.

And even she thinks the publishing industry has become intolerably politically correct. On Twitter, she recently observed, the “category of straight white males is the only category remaining for villains & awful people in fiction & film & popular culture.” Oates isn’t alone in observing the problem — in June, ubiquitous author James Patterson, whose potboilers have sold more than 400 million copies, said white male writers now face “another form of racism” in the woke publishing industry, before he was bullied into backtracking on his comments.

Of course, if you’ve set foot in a large bookstore recently, what Patterson is saying has obvious merit. On a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, a friend actually took photos and counted up the books on the six new fiction shelves displayed up front. Male authors made up less than 25 percent of the nearly 200 books displayed in the front of the store, and obviously, the percentage of men who were white and/or heterosexual was notably smaller than that.

Oates and Patterson are only now saying what many men with literary ambitions have long known. Iowa Writers Workshop graduate Alex Perez recently gave a scorched-earth interview to the Hobart Literary Journal where he discussed how male-centric literature was being deliberately shut out of publishing. During the interview, he had some choice words for the woke and disproportionately female gatekeepers of the industry:

These women, perhaps the least diverse collection of people on the planet, decide who is worthy or unworthy of literary representation. Their worldview trickles down to the small journals, too, which are mostly run by woke young women or bored middle-aged housewives. This explains why everything reads and sounds the same, from major publishing houses to vanity zines with a readership of fifteen. The progressive/woke orthodoxy is the ideology that controls the entire publishing apparatus.

Almost to prove his point, most of the editors of the Hobart Literary Journal resigned in protest over the decision to publish Perez’s interview. As for Perez, he’s mostly given up on his literary ambitions to write cultural and political commentary for publications that don’t neatly hew to center-left orthodoxies, such as Tablet.

The people running publishing have fully confused their profession with their secular religion. Perez isn’t just right that “everything reads and sounds the same,” but the greater crime is that when literature is culturally and politically homogenized, greatness becomes an outlier. The next Cormac McCarthy could be languishing because they were too busy greenlighting “Anti-Racist Baby.”

If men, along with other important and politically marginalized voices, want to tell stories –there’s going to have to be a revolution in publishing.

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“Sensitivity readers” to proofread books so they don’t offend cancel mobs

New, widespread phenomena inevitably create new economies, and new job titles; the strong push to align content, including books, with what can be summed up as “woke values” is no different.

The Spectator writes about a new brand of copy editors – “sensitivity readers.” The term is appropriately Orwellian in itself, given what these people get hired by publishers to do: make sure that stories that don’t represent a writer’s “lived experience” are “corrected” to better reflect that.

And the “sensitivity authority” who decides what is authentic is the freelancer given the job. It sounds fairly arbitrary, like many other things happening in society these days that flirt with some form of censorship or suppression of content.

And it continues to sound arbitrary even when it is explained that in order to “qualify” for a “sensitivity reader” you have to advertise your status as a member of an ethnic or cultural group, somebody who has experienced trauma or abuse, or just be a self-declared expert in a hobby.

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