Banned books week
ends today. The newsroom uses this opportunity to talk about books that have been banned and the concept of censorship.
It was good to see the loooong list
of banned or challenged books, almost all of which I don’t have anymore in my bookcases but, no kidding, almost all of which I read in my late teens and most of my twenties.
Hmm. Not having them anymore must mean that I DID NOT buy them, but borrowed them from the public library , which I did visit often. I especially read most of the Beat books, Kerouac’s and others, the early Lolita book, too many to name from the list.
All this must be partly why, as a news reporter who exists on freedom of speech, I’ve always respected the library as a protector of freedom of speech.
I wrote two pages about Brideshead Revisited, The Color Purple and how homosexuality is perceived. Then, I scrapped it.
It was long-winded and told you stuff you already know. Censoring books is bad, ignorance is dangerous, knowledge is power etc...
So let’s cut to the quick. Life is awful, sometimes. Fathers rape their children; a toddler dies from cancer; a man drowns homeless and unloved, and people make jokes about it on the Internet.
This is life. (Yes, life is also the mundane things. It’s trying to decide what sort of jam you’ll put on your toast or hiding a coffee stain with your tie. It’s eight hours of sleep and trips to the bathroom, lots of trip to the bathroom.) But the ends of the spectrum — the horrible and the transcendent — are where life matters the most.
We ban books because they are “too sexual,” “too violent” or because they contain a shade of humanity we would rather ignore. But life is “too sexual” and “too violent.”
If you read The Lovely Bones or The Color Purple and your innards twist and you want to stop reading, then the book is working! You’re supposed to be upset. Life (at least, half of the part that matters) is upsetting.
If you ban the books that force you to feel, force you to think, then you cordon yourself in a black-and-white Pleasantville.
You don’t have to accept the ugly. You don’t have to like it. But you do need to know it’s important.
And don’t tell me that your kids aren’t ready for it. I knew everything by seventh grade. I learned it in middle-school bathrooms and recess. Your kids probably do, also. (They got the Discovery Channel, don’t they?)
Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t talk to them with them about the ugly.
If I had to choose one book that really opened my eyes, it is To Kill a Mockingbird – a classic in my mind. If this book was banned, I think future generations would be cheated of a glimpse into the racial tension and bigotry that existed in our country. Although it’s fiction, sometimes a book can give us a better take on our country’s past than a history lesson.
OK, Douglas Adams is by far one of my favorite authors. Not only have I read all five books in the Hitchhiker trilogy (and no, that is not a typo), but I am also a proud owner of his Dirk Gently books and So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, a compilation of stories, essays and other things taken off of Adams’ fleet of macintosh computers after his passing. The man is by far one of my most admired authors for many reasons, primarily because he has the ability to put a humorous spin on intellectual topics that, I believe, allow readers of all ages, interests, socio-political-history-pop culture-etc awareness, and, let’s face it, intelligence levels, to actually be entertained and amused by his stories.
Kind of like how The Simpsons have canny ways of addressing important topical situations and “dumbing it down” so people laugh at the issues without realizing some of the nuances of humor. Only Douglas Adams is way better than some writers at The Simpsons could ever be.
Which, I guess, could be why Hitchhiker ended up on a list of contested literature. The book touches on religion and politics and dives into important issues regarding the human psyche in such a cavalier way that you don’t even realize that you’re reading the views of a self-professed radical atheist.
And maybe that one little thing is why this book was considered controversial: Adams had no qualms with admitting his atheism.
To me, that is an absurd reason to consider banning a book. To speculate that the author may be trying to force others to agree with his spiritual beliefs is rather ridiculous in my opinion. For those unfamiliar with the book, H2G2 (as it is called among some of the more serious fans) is really a silly sci-fi romp that, yes, calls into question important and topical issues. The characters are actually faced with trying to uncover the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe and Everything (a computer already gave them the answer, which I’m sure is one of the issues that led to the book being challenged).
Really, it is unfortunate that some people are so scared of what would happen if we allow people to present different beliefs and opinions through literature. And, quite honestly, in the case of H2G2, nobody should be kept from reading the book simply for it’s surface-level entertainment value.
Although, it’s a lot more fun if you read deeper. But hey, I’m not going to knock anybody for reading it simply to get to know the silly characters and laugh at the out-of-this-world scenarios throughout. If you haven’t read this book, get on it!
Oh, and P.S. Harry Potter is not teaching kids about witchcraft; it is a classic story about good and evil, and Harry is clearly a Jesus figure. But I could write a thesis on that—and I will blog about Harry Potter very soon, I promise
Labels: banned and challenged books