More Book Banning.

Fifty Shades of Grey, currently number one on the New York Times Best Seller list, is a charming story about a college graduate, her billionaire boyfriend, and their sex life. It’s labeled as erotic fiction, but it sounds more like porn for housewives. It was apparently developed from a work of Twilight fan fiction under the author’s penname (I shit you not) “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”. That should tell you everything. I have no plans to read it.

But, in the continuing crusade to protect…someone…from reading about any kind of sexual encounter beyond “with the lights off and through a hole in the sheet just to make a baby”, Brevard County, Florida banned the book from its public libraries. Source.

When asked why the Kama Sutra, Lolita, and the Tropic of Cancer are still permitted to remain on the shelves, Cathy Schweinsberg, the library services director pointed out that those books became classics because of the quality of the writing. I can’t argue with her on that, I suppose. Fifty Shades of Gray apparently has plot and character development that wouldn’t fill a teaspoon. But do we really want people like Ms. Schweinsberg telling us what is appropriate to read and what isn’t? Removing this book from the shelves of the public library is just flat out wrong.

The real struggle I’m having with this is not defending the stupid book or the willingness to join the crusade to keep it from being banned. No, I’m struggling because of the moral quandary I’m having in deciding whether to permit it to grace my personal banned books library. Technically, it’s been banned, so it should be there, but…..yeesh. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t ever let them ban Twilight.

16 Responses to More Book Banning.

  1. Relevant:

    It’s a whole Tumblr page devoted to crappy excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey.

  2. Beth Hutchens says:

    Dammit, Bronan, you suckered me into reading at least part of it. That was mean. Just plain mean. I guess we should be grateful for such a shining example as to why it is important to speak the loudest in favor of speech we hate. No book should be banned no matter how insipid and poorly written.

  3. CPlatt says:

    Actually I don’t see much wrong with the excerpts. Much better written than a typical women’s romance novel. And much more readable than the stupid Kama Sutra.

    The real problem to me is that we still have public libraries supported by tax money. Therefore, tax payers end up being coerced into subsidizing the availability of books that they find abhorrent. I don’t believe in such coercion, and the library system, which was indispensable 100 years ago (when the availability of information was pitiful, and poor people were REALLY poor i.e. they didn’t spend $100/month on cable TV) is now an anachronism. It should be privatized, at which point these silly arguments about book banning would promptly disappear.

    • John says:

      I don’t mind funding libraries at all. The books they procure that might offend me are balanced by the books they buy that offend others. And just to make sure there’s a good dose of offensive material, I donate all the books I buy. The library gratefully shelves them, too.

      My library system was voted the best in FL (okay, maybe that isn’t saying much) and it has an extremely wide array of books, many guaranteed to offend and annoy. Just as it should.

      • CPlatt says:

        Interesting. But what about other uses of your tax money? Happy about the military budget for instance? I just have a hard time with the concept of mandatory voluntary “donations” to government entities.

        Also I admit I have a thin skin about public libraries, because I’m a writer. Libraries are thieves, so far as I’m concerned. And if people pay for TV, why not books? It could just be 25 cents for each withdrawal.

        And really, if the libraries were not supported by taxation, it would solve all these irritating banned-book cases. Or most of them.

        • Beth Hutchens says:

          Cplatt I agree with you somewhat. But I disagree that taxpayers’ money is misspent on public libraries. The true evil is borne out of the puritanical leanings of those holding the purse. In a perfect world, libraries would be necessary public institutions funded by the taxpayer but not beholden to the whim of some adle-brained politician with a cause. As to the concept that taxpayers being forced to subsidize books they find abhorrent, I believe it misses the point. Freely available books are paramount to an enlightened society. I’d rather see taxpayer money spent on an open, uncensored library that is beholden to no censorship of any kind, than say, paying property taxes to educate other peoples’ stupid kids.

          • CPlatt says:

            A powerful argument! But surely there are some books you would not *really* want your taxes to subsidize. How about books arguing in favor of creationism? Or that book which caused a lot of trouble a year or two ago–a “how to” guide for child molestation? Or a book of photographs of car-crash victims, to excite the prurient interests of people who like that kind of thing? I am a first-amendment absolutist, but I think all of us have areas where we would not want to support the availability of a book with our own money. I mean, it is *our money,* you know! And since a public library cannot possibly stock ALL books, some choices have to be made regarding what to include and what to exclude. Seems to me, it’s a can of worms. And I actually have sympathies for my religious neighbors who get upset when their taxes are used to support material which they regard as evil. I think they’re wrong, but I also think they have the same rights as myself.

            • Beth Hutchens says:

              Actually, no. Part of being an advocate for free speech and free press means I support the publication (and my tax dollars) and subsidy thereof. Are some books ugly, stupid, and a waste of print? Sure, but my opinion is not so important that I would prevent their existence or preclude a person from reading those words. If my tax dollars support that, then so be it. It is worth it in the bargain. The individual has the power to choose what to read and what to ignore. And yes, it is our money. And yes, it’s spent on may things I disagree with. But at some point, we must stop forcing our morals on others. More words are preferable to less words. If a person reads a book and is inspired to commit a horrendous crime, punish the person, not the words.

        • John says:

          If you’re saying that tax dollars are wasted, well that an irrefutable statement. But where you might cut, I might increase… and vice versa, of course.

          That’s the problem with any kind of censorship: what offends one may well please another. You don’t have to get into moral relativism on this as it’s simply a fact. If I’m an evangelical Christian of Flavor X, I might find a book on Flavor Y extremely insulting. Am I right? Sure, by my standards, but not necessarily those of believers in Flavor Y. Censorship works great when there’s only one idea or opinion about things, but becomes oppressive when there are any two competing ideas.

          I’ve had my copy of Anarchist’s Cookbook now for going on 50 years. I’ve yet to blow up anything, phreak communications, or try to make drugs in my garage. But I find it both interesting to know how such things are done and useful to know that they can be done so easily.

          I’m also a very strong believer in knowing what my enemies are up to (however I define ‘enemy’), so I’m going to read what they have to say in order to both understand them and be prepared to deal with them on whatever plane necessary. Banning their books only pushes it out of view and leaves me less prepared to deal with it. That’s a major social bad in my figurative book.

          • CPlatt says:

            No, it has nothing to do with banning books. NO ONE here wants to ban anything. To me, it’s just a matter of theft. Stealing money from me to support things that I don’t like. Using my creative work to loan to other people, without them paying for it. I say “stealing money” because it is taken without my consent and I get punished if I don’t pay. How is this different from organized crime? As for loaning my work on an institutionalized basis–it says right on the copyright page, not to be resold or loaned.

            In addition, since a library cannot stock all books, it has to decide which to include, and which to leave out. There is no way to satisfy everyone on this basis. It is simply a bad idea, in a new age where anyone can get access to almost anything.

            Libraries have become an anachronism. Like the post office. Time for a better idea.

  4. dan says:

    prose that would melt a kindle. I have this image in my head of some dali landscape where everyone has the e-reader pooling in their hands

  5. The quality of the Kama Sutra’s WRITING makes it a “classic”? Hmmm, I always thought it was the pictures that did that. I didn’t even know it contained writing. Lol.

  6. Ancel De Lambert says:

    I’m confused on some things:
    Did they actually “pull it” from the shelves, or did they decline to purchase a copy or display donations? I’m okay with them not buying a paperback.
    More importantly, who the fuck do the New York Times follow to get this piece of crap to the top of the charts? Some padding has to be involved. The only reason shit hits the top of the Pop Charts is because studios pay radio stations to overplay their fecal material, so who’s paying what here? I have a hammer that demands to be placed within the flesh of those responsible.

    • tgt says:

      I’m pretty sure the NYT Bestsellers is based on sales figures, not critical acclaim or advertising.

      • CPlatt says:

        It used to be based on numbers from a subsample of bookstores. I don’t know if it still is.

  7. markkernes says:

    Yeah; go for it! I mean, why not? But you can probably get it cheap from one of the online used book sellers. That’s where I picked up my copy of The Housewife’s Handbook on Selective Promiscuity by “Rey Anthony” – one of the books that led to Ralph Ginsburg’s incarceration.

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