In a scene which appears to have been lifted straight out of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a group of Christians in Wisconsin has launched a legal claim demanding the right to publicly burn a copy of a book for teenagers which they deem to be “explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian”.
The offending book is Francesca Lia Block’s Baby Be-Bop, a young adult novel in which a boy, struggling with his homosexuality, is beaten up by a homophobic gang. The complaint, which according to the American Library Association also demands $120,000 (£72,000) in compensatory damages for being exposed to the book in a display at West Bend Community Memorial Library, was lodged by four men from the Christian Civil Liberties Union.
Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that burning books works, suing for the right, doubly so. Also, it never, ever makes them more popular.
I haven’t read Baby Be-Bop, but I did recently read Weetzie Bat, the first book in the same series. It’s a beautiful story, about people (some of them gay!) looking for love and acceptance, a topic I know really rankles Christians. I think it was in the Gospel of John where Jesus said, “Fuck all those pansy-ass fagots, they’ll burn for wanting to be loved like a real person.”
Link via @neilhimself
I feel I should say something about banned book week, even though Aaron and I pretty thoroughly covered this topic last year. So: the short version.
Banning books is stupid. The end.
OK. I’ll elaborate, but just a little: Banning books never works. It serves only to get more people to read a book they would have otherwise ignored because it has now been made interesting by the very fact that someone doesn’t want them to read it. And it’s silly. Especially nowadays, when pretty much anything can be had on the Internet, so long as you are smart enough to type a title into that little box in the Google thingy and are willing to spend five whole minutes looking at stuff online. Which, if you’re the sort of person who would go looking for a banned book, is not exactly a challenging task. Some of us might even consider it a species of fun.
So, to all the Sarah Palins of the world: keep banning those books. Because if something doesn’t work the first couple of thousand times, you should just keep doing it. It’s what Jesus would do.
I’m 0 for 2 on being up on milestones. However, I’m still more bummed about forgetting about Sputnik’s 50th than banned book week and a comentor over at Heavy Metal Librarian sums up why:
Banned books are passe. Have the list ever been updated. It always reads like a 1950s blacklist or dry county red state goodly Christian moral paranoia.
Banned information isn’t exactly the problem these days. It’s false mythologies, misinformation, and a presidential personality cult like Kim Jong-il’s minus the fashion sense.
He’s right. As wonderful a novel as Lolita is, there’s nothing even remotely erotic about it, other than Vlad Nabokov’s luscious turn of phrase. The idea that forms the core of the story isn’t even all that shocking anymore, what with real life US Senators trolling for underage Page flesh in the frickin’ Capitol, a story about a middle aged pedophile who convinces himself that the object of his lust is in love with him is almost quaint.
Now sure, pedophilia is a problem. But its not the harry monster under the bed that some folks in the media would have us believe and nowhere near as insidious as the finely structured layer of lies, damn lies, bullshit and purple smoke that makes up our pubic discourse. Plus, if you can’t get Lolita or any other banned book at your library, you can order it from Amazon or find the text online. Just ignore the barely-legal porn pop ups and the adverts in your email for Viagra and hot mother on daughter incest action.* And honestly, if you don’t ever get around to reading Lolita, or Tropic of Cancer or Are you There God, It’s Me, Margaret, it’s not the end of the world. Of course, neither will the world end if you never hear what vile and fiendish plot our politicians are hatching. That’s just your freedom you’ll be missing. But hay, so long as we know what happens to Britney’s kids, who cares, right?
Dozens of literary masterpieces and international bestsellers have been banned in Iran in a dramatic rise in censorship that has plunged the country’s publishing industry into crisis.
Companies that once specialised in popular fiction and other money-spinners are being restricted to academic texts under a cultural freeze instigated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Several thousand new and previously published works have been blacklisted by Iran’s culture and Islamic guidance ministry, which vets all books.
The ban includes current and recent American best sellers, as well as classics, plus current international novels by Iranian expats and pre-revolutionary authors.
However, publishers say many books are being banned arbitrarily. “We had adapted to the previous policy but now that is annulled and they are imposing their own personal taste,” said Mohammed Ali Jafarieh, head of the Sales publishing house. “Publishers are being hurt. We rely on multiple print runs to make a profit but if these are being denied we cannot make any money.”
The rise in book censorship mirrors repression in other spheres. In September the reformist newspaper Shargh was closed after publishing a cartoon depicting President George Bush, disguised as a horse, debating with a donkey under a halo, widely seen as representing Mr Ahmadinejad. The publishers launched a replacement newspaper, Rouzegar, but it was ordered to close after five days.
This isn’t just a case of a hardline fundamentalist aligned government cracking down on some literature that isn’t sufficiently deferential to it’s particular brand of fairy tale. It’s a political statement. This is the Iranian government saying a big fat fuck you to the West, which of course is only going to bulster the case for the Right in claiming this as a Monumental Clash of Cultures. Or it would, if the idiots on the right promoting this Culture War (or a War on Culture) weren’t trying to ban some of the same books. But I’m sure that continuing to refer to them as the Axis of Evil doesn’t help matters any.
I would think that by the 21st century, we wouldn’t have to keep arguing forÂ the bennifts of an open society versus a closed one but sometimes, the same old song still has a beat you can dance to.