On “OMG CENSORSHIP!!!!!!eleventy!” and Derailment

You may or may not recall my past posts on book banning, in which I posit that allowing a book to take up shelf space in the local library in no way compels any person to read, understand, and/or enjoy its contents.

Censorship? FAIL.

Basically, this is also my position on censorship, only backwards. To put it more entertainingly:

Over at I Blame the Patriarchy, Twisty notes that Nabokov’s “classic” child-rape-fantasy novel Lolita is a lot of pornulated dudeliocentric ebebophilic crap. Dudely commenter cries “BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH CENSORSHIPZ!?!?!??!” Twisty explains that in Radical Feminist Literary Paradise, dudeliocentric oppressive kiddie-porn narratives like Lolita wouldn’t even get made, let alone be considered “art,” because nobody would see any inherent value in a work based on a then-obsolete dudeliocentric oppressive kiddie-porn culture. Ergo, there would be no need to ban Lolita because nobody would even write Lolita or want to read it in the first place. Because it would make no damn sense in the context of a culture that recognized the inherent worth of every human being.

Two Things:

1.) Feminist literary criticism is, like, A Real Thing In the World. Moreover, it does not exist with the goal of harshing everyone’s dudeliocentric pornulated buzz. On the other hand, if your buzz *is* harshed by the mere existence of feminist literary criticism, perhaps you have a much larger problem than merely not being able to enjoy rape scenes in fiction anymore. (Perhaps your much larger problem is that you enjoyed them in the first place.)

2.) Denouncing a book as “crap” is not the same thing as calling for its suppression. This one is so obvious I’m shocked (SHOCKED, I say!) that Dudely Commenter didn’t think of it himself. Wasn’t he supposed to be The Voice of Reason Amidst The Otherwise Shrill Hysteria Posted By Laydeez?

I can, for example, tell you that I think Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code is crap. I can tell you it perpetrates an atrocity upon the English language that borders on the criminal. I can tell you there are potentially infinite better uses of your time, including six hours spent picking your nose while watching The Real Housewives of Wherever. I can suggest that, if you are unfortunate enough to own a copy of this tripe, that you may find it more useful and edifying to tear it apart one page at a time and make origami snails, or wrapping paper, or heavy-duty Kleenex. (All of these things, by the way, are true.)

But notice that what I have not told you is that The DaVinci Code, despite its overwhelming failure to construct a sensible narrative, describe a single compelling character, or master words of more than one syllable, ought to be removed from circulation. In fact, I don’t think it should be. Yes, I think it’s tripe, and it may even be harmful tripe.  But the fact that I can argue, on solid evidence, that this book fails in a number of ways is not the same thing as demanding that it be bowlderized, banned, or burned.

In any better world, The DaVinci Code, Lolita, and thousands of other ink-wasters would never have been written.  In that world, these manuscripts would have been laughed straight into the circular file and their authors would be selling irregular sneakers on a freeway off-ramp for a living instead.  But we don’t live in that world. We live in this one, where writers are free to make a fortune beating the piss out of the English language for all to see, and other writers are free to point out how we could live in a better world. None of which, by the way, would be possible if The DaVinci Code or any other book were to be censored or banned.

So, yes: let all the books in, even the shittiest ones. And then strive for a world where the shitty books are recognized for the manure they are, and the rest of us can get on with creating social justice and decent prose.


About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is a freelance writer with a decade of experience and a passion for creating new things. As Verity Reynolds, Dani is the author of the Non-Compliant Space series Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/verityreynolds
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5 Responses to On “OMG CENSORSHIP!!!!!!eleventy!” and Derailment

  1. sun runner says:

    I think the last paragraph should be included on warning stickers on the cover of every book in the “Twilight” series.

    I suppose we should consider ourselves fortunate that Stephenie Meyer is now able to build herself a house made out of stacked $100 bills and never has to write anything ever again.

  2. I get a lot of this same flack when I talk about “American Psycho.” Someone actually spent an hour arguing with me about the merits of this book, and then informed me that I didn’t like it because I was a prude who didn’t understand the impact of sexualized violence upon our cultural blah blah blah blah blah. It wasn’t worth arguing the point with him, but I’ll say here that I do UNDERSTAND the point of “American Psycho.” I understand it so well that I’ve aced four separate exams based on that book even though I’ve never read it. My disdain for that book isn’t something that anyone can fix by EXPLAINING THE BOOK TO ME USUALLY IN A LOUD YELLING VOICE LIKE THE ONE REPRESENTED BY THESE CAPITAL LETTERS. I think “American Psycho” is a crappy book that is badly written and that any value derived from this book rests in the point it’s trying to make, which can be made better (and with far fewer pages and thus far less murdered trees) and that if I can fully explicate this book’s big, important “point” without ever having read the book itself, it must not be a very good book to begin with. Do I think it should be banned? No, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, or that by bashing it mercilessly I’m somehow calling for censorship.

  3. Nancy says:

    Yes, exactly. Thank you.
    When I decide which donated books to add to our circulation I have to be 100% objective… after all, there is someone, I’m sure, in our community who will read and enjoy what I think is crap. But maybe, just maybe after reading that book, they will read and enjoy another book that is a bit more challenging! But I’m not forcing anyone to read *anything* just by adding a book to our shelves.
    BTW, love edwardnortonfan’s comment here!

  4. Dani Alexis says:

    American Psycho strikes me as the pinnacle of post-postmodern literature. I don’t mean that the story is the epitome of said literature; I mean that the book’s very existence as the badly-written brainchild of a dude like Bret Easton Ellis, published at the time it was, and the deluge of YELLING ABOUT ITS MERITS ON THE INTERNETS AS IF THE MERE FACT OF A STUCK CAPSLOCK KEY RENDERS ONE’S ARGUMENTS UNASSAILABLE that have occurred since strike me as the pinnacle of post-postmodern literature. The story is crap.

    That said, I also think American Psycho is a prime example of “a book that should be pushed into obscurity posthaste, not through active banning but because our culture has so thoroughly de-coupled sex and violence that readers can no longer identify or even make sense of the text anymore.” Is that even possible? Hell if I know, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

  5. Jeanne Heuer says:

    Great post. Was a librarian for years. Loved the people who wanted books removed that they hadn’t even read.

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