Saturday, 18 April 2009

Banned Books and Bad Faith

You know what irritates me even more than grit in my eye? People who try and tell me what I should and shouldn’t read.
Among the numerous books that The American Library Association (ALA) want banned include Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and And Tango Makes Three, a picture book about penguins.

The Kite Runner which is an emotionally charged and beautifully written tale of a 12-year-old Afghan and his betrayal of his best friend - includes a scene where a boy is raped. This particular scene led to the removal of the book from some American library shelves. Other libraries replaced it with versions where the offending scenes had been torn out. What failed to reach the ALA’s attention (whose main ethos is – get this – a campaign for intellectual freedom) is that the Kite Runner is an important book; I would argue a necessary book that highlights the horrors that were forced upon ordinary Afghans by the Taliban. Mmm, I wonder...are there any comparisons one can make between these two organisations? I know I shouldn’t compare a murderous regime that had taken its country back to the dark ages, with a group of librarians, but they are both coming from the same seed of an idea. The ALA has chosen a different method of proving how right they believe they are. So far...

For a detailed picture of life in the west where fundamentalism has run riot why not try the wonderful and critically acclaimed novel by Gillian Philip - a new friend of this blog - called Bad Faith. I’m guessing that Ms Philip is hoping the ALA take a dislike to her books.

For the third year running the book that most offended these “guardians” of our morals was Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell's, And Tango Makes Three, a children's picture book about two male penguins who bring up an orphaned chick. This book was based on a news article the authors came across about a zookeeper who noticed two of his penguins trying to hatch a stone. The book offended the quest for intellectual freedom by being – in their withered opinion - pro-gay and anti-family. I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on the veracity of this claim, but I really don’t care to. The authors felt it was a worthwhile story to tell and readers have agreed with them in their droves. That’s good enough for me.

As a writer my take on this is very different. Free speech and all that. Also, I hope and pray that future publications of mine are banned. When it comes to book sales nothing is more enticing than the public disapproval of a puffed-up, self important group like this. Controversy gets the attention of the media and as any free-thinking American might say; readers eat this shit up, man.

Immediately upon publication of my next book I will be sending it by registered post to the American Library Association. While hoping fervently that they hate it. It will be an emotionally-charged and beautifully written tale about a boy who is betrayed by his best friend and then raped by the big boys - and who just happens to have been brought up by a pair of same-sex penguins.


  1. I remember reading about a certain well known writer who - having fallen foul of them in much the same way - threatened to sue them for misrepresenting her work. She said that in such a litigious society, the reaction was instantaneous and they backed down immediately. Love the idea of people being hoist with their own petard - much as our surveillance society is suddenly realising that it works both ways - they keep an eye on us - we keep an eye on them!
    Great blog! Catherine

  2. Yay, Petards R Us. Hopefully with us watching them, watching us will mean that sanity prevails. Cheers, Catherine.

  3. Yes, I seem to remember Noddy being banned in Australia because he shared a bed with Big Ears. Censorship - who needs it?!

    Great blog, Michael, it's been keeping me chuckling.