An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Literary: Anything waxing literary and Classical goes here. Occasionally I’ll put up a post which is entirely or largely a poem. Those go in Poetry. I even sometimes (though I would be the first to tell you that “literary criticism is bunk”) post some critique.

Tafel :: literary :: critique

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

You Want to Ban What Book?

Banned Books I’ve Read and Recommend

I just ran across the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1999–2000. A few of them, such as Daddy’s Roommate (at number two), Madonna’ Sex (number 19) and Curses, Hexes, and Spells (number 73) make sense. They’re the kind of books that concerned parents taking an active part in their children’s lives would ask librarians to remove. However, some made no sense at all.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (5) — Huh? I don’t see how a masterpiece of American literature, and icon of abolition, and clean, moral story can be challenged by any comers. Oh. I get it. It’s because the characters use the term, “nigger”, isn’t it? When will people understand that language changes over time? Even the abolitionists of the day called blacks “niggers”. It was merely the term in common use.

The Giver (14) — One mother said, “This book only offers one thing, ideas on the destruction of humanity.” How can you think that Lowry is advocating a Big-Brother state? The book is about rebelling against the inhumanity of the machine!

A Wrinkle in Time (22) — Let me guess: “occultism”? I don’t know of any kids who would take religious cues from a science fiction novel about interdimensional travel. Face it: if you have a world which allows things like interdimensional travel (or trans-wardrobe travel, a la Narnia), you’re going to need to change your universe around somewhat merely to maintain internal consistency. Our real universe with its one Creator God is just that — real. Surreal and supernatural stories require surreal and supernatural settings.

The Witches (27) — No, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with witchcraft in literature. How is it different from, say, stealing; since a sin is a sin is a sin, in God’s book. Would you ban a book (such as those in The Hardy Boys series) since it dealt with crime? Sin in a book is not wrong. Glorified sin is wrong. Dahl’s The Witches uses witches as villains, not heroes.

Blubber (32) — So now we can’t have a book in which the main character is both overweight and unpopular? Hmmm . . . I despise political correctness, and when the political-correctness crowd trys to ban a book for being “mean”, I get mean. When will they learn that that’s life? I was always the mocked kid (for being a geek/nerd/wimp at school. If anyone would have a reason to ban this book, it would be me. My vote: keep it.

To Kill a Mockingbird (41) — They seem to like banning my favorite books, do they not? Or mayhap my taste in reading is just a bit contra-establishment, eh? Well, the story of a rape trial. Are you saying that middle schoolers and high schoolers don’t know what rape is, or that they ought not, in a society gone mad, read at least one example of someone trying to handle the case the right way? Or is it bad because a black man is on trial? It always comes back to that, doesn’t it? Listen, folks: it’s not racism just because the defendant is black. Racism is when someone is deprecated for their race. Just like Huck Finn, this is an anti-racism book getting a bad rap from stupid people: those who don’t/can’t/won’t thing about the message of a book rather than their preconceptions about it.

Flowers for Algernon (47) — Now, what possible controversial topic could be in this book? Insensitivity to the mentally handicapped? (The book promotes their cause, rather than deprecating it.) Sex? (The main character develops a crush on his teacher, which never goes farther than his asking her for a kiss.) Drugs? (The main character receives a mind-enhancing operation to treat his retardation.) ?????

A Light in the Attic (51) — I grew up reading Shel Silverstein. I think I’d know it if one of his poems were inappropriate. Oh, wait. You’re talking about that “camel” poem, aren’t you. I don’t know about you, but in my family there was just an understanding that that one wasn’t read. Didn’t you grow up with parents who raised and trained you right? Hmmm. Few and far between, huh?

Brave New World (52) — Let me say that this one doesn’t surprise me. Our daddy-state and resident liberals don’t want any free thinkers around. Yes, it’s not appropriate for kids. No, I don’t think it would be a problem for high schoolers. Let the kids read Animal Farm until they’re old enough for Brave New World and 1984. Rather surprisingly, they have not yet tried to ban Animal Farm

James and the Giant Peach (56) — I suppose giant bugs and a giant piece of fruit are supernatural enough to entail drastic action. I can see that. Dahl’s Peach is going to make kids everywhere go out into their back yards and cast spells on their fruit trees until the fruit becomes big enough to travel in, right? Wrong.

Lord of the Flies (70) — A lot of books from my “must-read” list I give people are showing up on the banned list.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, travelled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across that square, red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.

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Look how well-written that is! Golding captures the essence of his childhood point of view required by the story in that passage. Matter-of-fact, like a jaded, frightened child. It’s not “nice”, though, is it. Face it: a sin nature is not a nice thing. I halfway think they want to ban LOTF because it acknowledges the innate evil of mankind. Not very enlightened of Golding, is it?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (84) — I think I already dealt with this under Huck Finn. Learn this, people: “nigger” was not a racist term in the mid-1800s. Everyone from abolitionists to slaves to slavers used it. It’s called “period dialect”.

How to Eat Fried Worms (96) — Look, moms. No matter what disgusts you, you can’t ban a book because it’s “icky”. Trust me. There is no questionable content in here. Not even the fleeting use of mild cursing. Nought. Nada. Zilch. Fried Worms is a one-hundred-percent clean book with a one-hundred-percent appeal to boys. No, mom, you probably won’t like it. That doesn’t mean it’s evil.

Looking back at that list, I’m rather surprised at how many of the books on the list are classics. Some I have never read are on that list, and it’s making me want to read them even more. Fahrenheit 451, anybody? Let’s have us a book un-burning! Read a banned book. Better yet, tell someone else about your favourite banned book.