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I read banned books

September 24, 2011

September 24th – October 1st is Banned Books Week. In a nutshell, this event is about intellectual and artistic freedom and promotes challenged and banned books.

From the Banned Books Week website

When I look at my book shelves, I find that several of the inhabitants have been frowned upon, prosecuted, challenged or banned at some point. Lewis Carroll, D.H. Lawrence, Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Chopin, J.D. Salinger, J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston – and the list goes on.

There is a number of reasons for banning and challenging books. They use offensive words. There is violence in them. There is gore. They deal with homosexuality. They deal with sexual offenders. They deal with sex. Sexism. Nudity. Abortion. Racism. They display a religious point of view. They display a non-religious point of view. Or a political view. You get the point.

I don’t advocate explicit or offending content just for the sake of provoking. Generally speaking, my opinion on sex in literature exemplifies how I feel about most controversial issues in literature. I don’t think it’s a good idea to read adult books to small children. But I do believe in freedom, and I do believe that literature, like other kinds of art, is important. Writing about rape isn’t the same as committing rape. That a novel is seen through the eyes of a murderer doesn’t mean that the author thinks that killing is all right or that the reader should. People can, and should, think for themselves. Much good can come out of controversial books. They can examine the human condition. And crudely put, we can’t talk about what is wrong with the word “nigger” if it is eradicated from Huckleberry Finn – and I recommend CM Stewart’s blog for a discussion of censorship that takes its point of departure there.

Personally I want to be able to write what I do. Far from everything I do is frownuponable (yes, that is a word now), but I will continue to deal with the topics that I do in my fiction to the best of my ability.

Literature can be controversial. Literature can be honest. Art sometimes does mimic life, and life isn’t always pretty.

How do you feel about controversial and banned books? Do you write stories that provoke or deal with “unsuitable” topics? – If you want to share, Out Of Print would like to hear it too.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2011 3:36 pm

    Do I deal with ‘unsuitable’ topics? I sometimes think my novel in progress is composed of nothing but ‘unsuitable topics’. I mean I didn’t set out with that intention, and I’m not particularly trying to shock, I’m just not interested in shiny happy heroes. Actually that’s not 100% true, one of my protagonists is indeed hopeful and cheery, but given that she grew up in a morgue with the taxidermied remains of the mother that committed suicide when she was three, there’s a distinctly sinister edge to her continual optimism.

    I think that exception rather proves the rule somehow, particularly when you consider that most of the rest of the main cast are considerably more screwed up than she is. Add in the fact that I’m practically allergic to villains that do stuff just because they’re the villains and, well lets just say there’s a lot of grey and gray morality going on.

    The thing is, I find flawed characters more believable and really, really flawed characters more interesting and I don’t think it does anyone any good to sweep the nastier bits of human nature under the rug, stick our collective fingers in our ears and sing sickly sweet lullabies to cover the sound of people being gunned down in the street outside… uh that metaphor got away from me a bit, but hopefully you get the general point.

    So in summation, controversial books are important to our understanding of ourselves and if the censors don’t think books are suitable for children they should stop at putting a ‘parental advisory sticker on the front or something. Also sorry this reply ended up so inordinately long.

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  2. September 24, 2011 4:13 pm

    Everything I’ve written so far is ready to be banned. Homosexuality, violence, implications of child abuse, etc. Makes it sound as if I write trash that should not only be banned, but scorned by discriminating readers. But, like most banned books, those topics are adjuncts to serious ideas. For the censorious mind, any topic that has the potential to upset them is reason to censor/ban. Let them remain in their miserable ignorance; writers, and intelligent readers, will ignore them.

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  3. September 24, 2011 7:42 pm

    I echo Aiwevanya and Catana.

    And I’ll add that banning a book makes a book more powerful and desirable. I know my novels, much like life, will offend a few readers. Those readers have a personal choice to read or skip. They should not be saddled with the burden of deciding for other adults, as other adults are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves.

    Thanks for the link-back! 🙂

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  4. September 24, 2011 11:20 pm

    I agree with you: life isn’t pretty. Part of why I write is to exprerss the human condition and that is light and dark intertwined in a dance. I had a lot of dark stuff inmy sci fi series, because of the some of the characters involved. I’m glad you make the desintion between what a writer and what they write.

    I have very different views to some of the characters I’ve gotten to know, just as I have a different view from most people. there are as many relalities as there are people to perceive them. This goes for fictional people too, as after all they are just a refection of our own nature.

    The writer duty is to be brave enough to put the words down on paper for everyone else to see. After that it is down to the courage of the reader to keep turning the page and face whatever came out.

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  5. Maggie permalink
    September 25, 2011 1:18 am

    You can’t please anyone. Any author who writes any book is going to run the risk of having it banned by certain groups of people. Not everyone is going to like what you write – but the fact that your book got banned will give you that much more attention in the long run!

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  6. October 1, 2011 1:19 pm

    Thank you for your comments! it is very interesting to read your views. 🙂
    I would answer individually, but I have some computer related problems with my wrist/elbow right now, so I’m doing a minimum amount of typing.
    So this time I’m just collectively thanking you for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂

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  1. Celebrate Freadom! Banned Books Week 2014 | Moose X-ing

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