After a week of reading things I’m not supposed, and probably getting myself on the verge of being banned myself from my local library (I couldn’t believe there was no banned books display here this week, and let them know my disgust), I’m going to round out the week with the promised words from three more bestselling Authors, but also my own observations on this week.
It didn’t escape my notice that, apart from a very noticeable exclusion (think dictionary), most if not all the books that are being challenged have either been made into, or are in the process of being made into a movie. This made me wonder if, for those that have already hit the big screen, the challenges people made regarding these works were the result of the visual images they had been given by the film industry, rather than them coming to their own conclusions from actually reading the book in its intended form. After all we are all aware of how much poetic licence filmmakers take when adapting books for the movie going audience; with this thought planted I’m going to hand over to the Authors for the final words.
Jon Land, bestselling and award-winning Author of more than twenty-five novels shares his favourite banned book along with which book on the list surprises him the most:
“I’d have to say my favourite banned book is Huckleberry Finn. It’s not only one of my favourite books, but also arguably the greatest American novel ever written. To even consider taking it from shelves, and restricting its teaching by teachers, risks denying young people a coming of age tale that pictures America in the last moments before the Industrial revolution, capturing an innocence that in Twain’s mind was always a sham. Huck himself remains one of the great American heroes of all time and his character provides countless life lessons of loyalty, friendship, heroism, and sacrifice that are denied to those who reach up to grab the book only to find it’s not there.
As far as which surprises me the most? Well, the truth is any and all of them. But I’m going to focus on The Diary of Anne Frank because to deny access to this book, in any way, shape, or form, is to risk denying the horrors perpetuated on humanity by the most vile monsters in modern history. And to deny those horrors is to risk the very real possibility that such monsters could return in a different age with a different target. Could the banning of a single book cause such a thing? Of course not. But the mentality that would allow such a book to be banned could definitely allow, if not encourage, a new wave of monsters and the heinous acts they perpetuate.”
Loren D. Estleman is the award-winning author of more than sixty-five novels, including mysteries and westerns. His most enduring character, Amos Walker, has been featured in twenty novels and his adventure novel, The High Rocks was nominated for a National Book Award, and here are his thoughts:
“I’m never surprised by any of the choices, however innocuous some of them may seem. There will always be pinch-brained bigots who aren’t satisfied just to take offense at a thing, but to keep everyone else from being exposed to it, and since these days the censorship comes from left as well as right, there’s no mystery of the length of the list.
I’ve read many, although, not most, of these books, and in some cases (1984, In Cold Blood, The Sun Also Rises) have re-read them more than once. The best ones make me reconsider my world or take me far away from it; but these are all my favourites if they spike the blood pressure – fatally, perhaps – of the human slime that would set a match to them.
I don’t waste time getting angry over the choices, because it infuriates me that any book should be banned for any reason. This is America. Our society was founded on the principle that no idea is as dangerous as any action taken to silence it.”
Susan Isaacs is a New York Times bestselling author of mysteries and literary fiction and shares her favourite on the Banned Books List:
“My favourite banned book is Huckleberry Finn. It’s famous for its depiction of race and class in America, but what I love most are the characters. They are so human — courageous, venal, funny, cruel — and seem more alive than half the people I meet every day. Yes, the escaped slave is called Nigger Jim, but that was the truth of the time, the offhand viciousness; suppressing that fact to save feelings from being hurt is the cowardly way out.
I don’t want anyone else judging what books I can read. I don’t need to be protected. Anyway, who is fit to judge? A Supreme Court Justice? A Librarian? Whom do you trust to ban books for you or your kids? And if the person you’d choose is too busy, or not interested in being a censor, who gets the job?
I am never surprised at any book being banned. Everybody has a sore spot, some idea he or she thinks is dangerous to let out. We want to shut up racists, gun advocates, gay advocates, blasphemers, and mega-church preachers. If we can ban Merchant of Venice or Catch-22, the world will be a better place. Wrong. Shut up a neighbour and next week or next year it’s your favourite book’s turn to get muzzled Weenies ban books. They’re scared of new thoughts and tough words. Be brave. Fight censorship. And buy a banned book.”
Everyone has something that they think are inappropriate or wrong, be it books, movies, advertising; but we all have the right to choose whether we want to subject ourselves and/or our families to these things; what we do not have the right to do is press those opinions and restrictions onto other people. We need to realise that when we start down the slippery road to banning the written word from our libraries and schools, they will eventually be banned from our bookstores, and then where does that end? Are we in danger of going down the route portrayed in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451?