Thursday, December 22, 2005

Something to think about ...

Karie B, at Bookish raises an issue worth considering:

"Refraining from reading a book (or watching a film) because characters are involved in something you find morally objectional strikes me as .. very odd. Is it because you in your capacity as a reader are afraid of losing yourself in the headspace of the characters or .. what?"

It seems to me that to refrain from reading a book because the characters engage in something I find morally objectionable would seriously limit the range of my reading. I object to murder, but think Macbeth is a great play. In fact, I find I connect quite well with Macbeth himself, especially at the end when, knowing all is lost including honor, that the prophecies have come to pass and Birnum Wood has indeed come to Dunsinane, he still doesn';t shrink from fighting MacDuff.
Lolita, on the other hand, didn't grab me becaus I just couldn't connect with Humbert Humbert as a person. I find it difficult to read a work of fiction whose central character I cannot in some way identify with. A limitation, I am sure, but it hasn't kept me from much.


  1. What's really messed up is I don't think you'd EVER hear people object to a book or ban a book because there is murder in it. But too much sex or homosexuality or communism - all kinds of bans.

    It's crazy... I mean, I personally am a little conservative about sex and I don't like communists, but I definitely don't think any of the sins in those universes are anywhere close to as bad as MURDER. Murder is very, very, very objectionable. It's bad bad bad.

    But no one objects to murder books.

    My point here is that it stands to reason (and this is a little philosophical/academic so that maybe I'm missing something) but it stands to reason if person A objects to one book because there are gay people having sex in it and does not object to another that has a lot of murder in it (I don't even think you would see them object to a book that was sympathetic to a murderer), then person A actually thinks gay sex is worse than murder.

    Isn't that right?

    I think that is really messed up, but it's something I think we are seeing in the fights over book in the world today.


  2. Hi Bradydale:
    It does seem as if violence always gets a pass and sex has to demonstrate its utility -- or something. I don't think that subject matter in itself makes a book work. My objection to Lady Chatterly's Lover is not that it has explicit sex scenes, but that it's a silly book. But no one ever suggests that a book be banned because it's silly. I am convinced that much of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code has to do with giving anti-religious types a certain cover for their bigotry. But it is a terrible book for reasons other than that.
    Banning books for any rerason has always seemed to me a bad idea. Usually, no one is forced to read a given book. No one should be prevented from reading one, either. If the book is advancing notions that are false, that will be found out more quickly the more widely it is discussed.
    As the late Fred Allen once put it, "Everybody should leave everybody else the hell alone."