My obligatory “Banned Books Week” post

How I usually plan posts for the blog here is on Saturday or Sunday I finish off the rough drafts of the three posts I’ve been working on to get them ready for posting during the week. Now that I’ve introduced a “week in review” post on Sundays I continue to update that as I do throughout the weekend.

To be honest, it never crossed my mind to do a banned books post this week mostly because everyone else in the blogging world is doing one and I didn’t think I had anything to really add to the subject. Plus, having blog posts not about Banned Books Week is likely good for views as I “counter program” against the current theme. Only yesterday two people told me they were looking forward to my post about banned books that was “obviously” coming on Friday.

Sigh. Well, here goes nothing…

In the vast, vast majority of cases I believe censorship is wrong. I love Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but it not appearing on a fourth grade reading list is probably a good idea. Disallowing eighth graders from reading it is a shame. Preventing high school students from doing so is tantamount to a crime. Could you call not having fourth graders reading it censorship? Technically yes, I guess, which is why I always say things like “in the vast majority of cases”. Sometimes making sure something is age appropriate is a good thing. But to prevent teenagers from reading some of the literary classics because you disagree with some of the language or subject matter? That is an issue for me.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest books ever written, was still banned in parts of the world into the late 1970s because of Hemingway’s portrayal of the brutality of civil war. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was thought to have too much profanity to be worthwhile. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was banned for being too sexual of a book despite it having no sex in it whatsoever. The list goes on and on. Yet none of those books are things high school kids shouldn’t be allowed to read.

I can say with certainty I’ve never once decided to read a book because someone banned it. It’s not something that’s ever been a determining factor in what I decide to read or not to read. I know for a fact there are a lot of folks out there that do intentionally read books that have been censored. That’s great for those folks, and I encourage them to use whatever method they want in determining what books to read. I think that many of the classics that appear on banned lists should be read, not because they were banned but because they are in general thought to be very good books. (Is this a good spot to mention I hate A Tale of Two Cities? It’s not? OK, then I won’t)

Whenever I hear of a school system banning books from their reading lists I tend to get a little annoyed; almost as annoyed as the people running those school systems would get if someone would dare suggest The Bible should be banned from their public schools. I’ve noticed that when a small group of people wish to decide for others what is good or bad for them that same small group hates it when others try to impart those same guidelines on their choices, and often screams the loudest that their rights are being violated.

You don’t want to read a particular book because it goes against your values, that’s fine. Let the rest of us decide for ourselves if we want to read it or not on our own. Besides, in the internet age we live in telling a young person they’re not allowed to read something only makes them want to go out and read it just to spite you.

Hmmm, on second thought, let me give you a list of books you can ban. That way lots of young folks will be making sure to read them. Which is the whole idea anyway…

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4 thoughts on “My obligatory “Banned Books Week” post

  1. Whenever I hear someone say “In the vast majority of cases…” or “Everybody knows…” whatever follows is a lie or absolute bullshit.

  2. I could not disagree more completely.

    “In the vast majority of cases jumping out of a airplane at 1000′ feel of altitude without a parachute will result in death to the jumper.”

    Using your premise that statement is either a lie or bullshit. Which of those two things is that statement?

  3. I hadn’t realised banned book week was now. Glad you mentioned ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ – that’s sitting in my pile right now, but I’ve been put off from starting it because it’s quite big for carrying around. This seems like a fitting time to start that one next though!

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