“The news that changes have been made to the works of best-selling children’s author Roald Dahl has been met with anger from leading writers, including Booker prizewinner Salman Rushdie, who branded the changes ‘absurd censorship.’” — CNN
We here at Puffin Books understand that our edits to Roald Dahl’s stories can be a bit jarring. But if you take a moment to scan through all the changes made, you’ll laugh at the furor over such minor tweaks. We certainly aren’t going to do anything drastic to a childhood classic. That’s why we want to make it clear that James still has sex with the giant peach.
By leaving this scene in, we hope to alleviate concerns about the artistic integrity of a story that includes a boy making passionate love to a giant peach. We are striking a delicate balance between modern language improvements and the author’s intent. Retaining the scene where James absolutely wrecks that peach shows we’re a publisher willing to make hard decisions for the good of children.
We’re not going to lie; we thought about removing it. It is, after all, a scene where a kid bones a giant peach, so it was a change that was definitely on the table. We discussed toning it down, substituting in some euphemisms, or maybe having them just do hand stuff. But it didn’t seem right for the narrative. For the story to feel complete, James and that peach must bang.
Sex with a giant peach in a children’s story may seem unsavory, and you are correct. However, that is how the story was published over sixty years ago during a time when peach love was somewhat acceptable. Yes, the lengthy descriptions of fuzzy skin, juicy flesh, and sticky juices go on for one or two more chapters than necessary, but it was Dahl’s vision. Changing that vision without his consent goes one step too far.
We understand that some people will be confused by our decision. We’ve already heard rumblings around the office: “What the hell did I just read?” “If we’re changing things, this definitely needs to go,” and “I don’t feel comfortable working in this environment,” but what you’re forgetting is that Puffin Books, as well as at The Roald Dahl Story Company, make a lot of money from these books. A LOT.
Still, some in our company have suggested that perhaps we should focus on publishing work by new authors rather than continuing to spend resources on culturally outdated texts. That person was promptly fired. There is money on the table. We will keep these dying works propped up on life support as long as they continue to make boatloads of money for people who had absolutely no hand in their creation over 30 years after the author’s death.
So we think we can agree we’ve reached a happy solution for all. Realistically, what good would it do if we got rid of those infamous peach scenes? Fine, your child can now read a story where a young boy doesn’t take a peach to pound town, but they’re still reading a book by a vocal anti-semite. Does that really make you feel much better?