And by ‘bad‘ I don’t mean it in a relative sense. It’s just that some books are seen as bad because a connotation, a function and a power is being attached to them, usually by those who ban, almost never by the writer. What causes a book to be banned? Wow. I don’t think there’s just one answer. There’s actually many, and applying to different ages of publishing history. Many books which we find perfectly fine today, may have been branded as ‘obscene‘ or ‘unwelcome‘ both in politics or religion. Depending on the period the book has been published, it seems controversial topics in society were rather hidden than talked about or faced publicly.
It should not come as a surprise that banning books has been happening for centuries, the first example coming to mind being that of the Spanish Inquisition and probably much earlier than that. Books would not only be banned, they would be burnt and their authors accused or even worse, executed. Even older publications such as Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” or Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” had been banned, with their release coming as late as the XX Century. George Orwell’s “1984“, J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and even classics such as “Alice In Wonderland” or the more recent “Harry Potter” series have been called a problem, one day or another, in one place or another.
It seems the recurring reasons for imposing a ban on a book are always involving politics, religion or sex. These topics still divide, huh? I believe there should never be censorship in books, the only taboo being that of offending someone. That is the one thing that should never be allowed. But when you speak of politics, religion or sex, and you spark debates, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Today, when a book is banned, it’s probably overloaded with sexual content or judged too controversial to be published. “Fifty Shades of Grey” by British author E.L. James was, for example, subject to censorship in Florida only recently, due to its plot, describing the extreme sexual encounters of the two main characters. The ban has then been lifted.
But let me make my point clear. Let’s say I despise to look at myself wearing khaki pants and that seeing me wear one pair would hurt my sensibility. I do find out that quite a lot of people are similar to me, that they hate to wear khaki pants. Do we have to make a statement by banning khaki pants from all clothing retail stores? Certainly not. I can choose not to wear them, right?
I’m not sure my example applies well to such an extremely complex and varied scenario, but it should work.
Looking back at previously banned books, the reasons for such act look now absurd and silly. John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” being banned because it made California people look unfriendly? Who says a book speaks universally? The author is not releasing a manifesto, it’s a voice among billions, which you can listen to or decide to ignore. By the way, kahki pants are not that bad!