Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Censorship

The Sunday Salon.comCensorship. I can't even say the word without getting upset. This is one topic that always gets my panties in a twist. I abhor the idea that someone else gets the right to tell me what I can or cannot read. Or watch on TV. Or listen to on the radio. I'm all about free will. If I don't like it or don't agree with it, then I don't have to read it. Period.

What brings this topic up today of all things?? I was trolling the net this morning, checking out the news and such. And I found this article about Salman Rushdie. I've always had a lot of respect for Rushdie, even though I haven't read one of his books! I've seem him on quite a few talk shows, news programs and political discussions. He's incredibly intelligent, and I agree with a lot of his views on life. One of these days, I WILL read something that he has written!

The article however is about how his publisher, Random House, has pulled Sherry Jones' debut novel, "The Jewel of the Medina". It's a historical fiction novel about Muhammad and his child bride, Aisha. A novel of FICTION. And it was pulled because Random House was afraid of the backlash it would receive from the Muslim population. "Censorship by fear" is how Rushdie sees it, and I agree. Rushdie of all people would understand how a book like this could incite people, considering he was handed down a death decree by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when he wrote "The Satanic Verses" back in the 80's.

I'm sure that Random House has their reasons. They said that "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment." Now, Random House has the right to choose which books to publish and which books not to. That is there right. That is their job. But to pick up a book for publication, then back down because a group of people disagree with the contents is a completely different story.

Where would we be today if Mark Twain wasn't allowed to publish "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" because of racism? Or "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee?? What if someone decided that Harry Potter couldn't be published because some people might take exception to the notion of witchcraft and sorcery?

Like I said, I just don't get it. Freedom of choice. Read what you like. Don't read what you don't. Why do some people get to make that choice for me?? For instance, right now there is a new book out by Jerome Corsi. You know him. The man that is best known for the "Swiftboat" campaign against John Kerry. His new book, "The Obama Nation" is currently on the NY Times Non-Ficiton best-sellers list. It seems to be nothing more than a smear campaign of Obama thinly veiled as a Non-fiction piece. He says, "My intent in writing this book, as was the case in coauthoring Unfit for Command, is to fully document all arguments and contentions I make, extensively footnoting all references, so readers can determine for themselves the truth and validity of the factual claims." And yet, the book itself contains false statements. It has been debunked by a number of websites and political groups, including Obama himself. And yet, this book was published. And I CHOOSE NOT to read it. Simple enough, isn't it??

A guess this is just a little food for thought on a Sunday!!

Tomorrow, I hope to have a review up for "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. I think I need some time to digest this one!! Fantastic book, though. Now I just have to decide what to read next!!

Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!


SmallWorld at Home said...

Great post. Censorship is such a powerful topic. My American Lit kids eat this stuff up!

Literary Feline said...

I've been following the story about The Jewel of Medina closely over the last week and it irks me too that the publisher made the decision to go ahead and pull the book. I think you make a very good point with the Corsi book as that speaks directly to one of the main complaints I've seen mentioned about Jones' book--the accuracy issue. Although, I don't know if the claim about her book is true. I also understand the fear of safety, and while I tend to lean toward caution in most things, I also think some things are worth taking risks over and speaking out about.

Kim L said...

I find it so frustrating that fear can be used to shut down something like this. Plenty of Christians were offended by The Davinci Code, but that book still got published. People just either read it or didn't. End of story.

gautami tripathy said...

Rushdie's own book The Stanic Verses was banned in some countries, including India. I have not read it as yet. I will get hold of a pirated edition soon.

Do check out my Sunday Salon posts :D

SS 1: Review of The Dark Child

SS 2: Musings about books

samantha.1020 said...

Nicely said and I couldn't have said it better myself.

Stephanie said...

smallworld - It heartens me to see that your kids are interested in the topic. It's such a hot-button issue for me. I HATE any type of censorship.

Wendy - I was actually under the impression that Jones' book was a work of historical fiction. If that is the case, then I don't think the accuracy should be an issue. Isn't that the whole point of FICTION?? The whole thing just burns me.

Kim - I SO agree. Tons of Christian groups hated da Vinci as well as Harry Potter and many other books. No one considered not publishing them because of that. Is it really that hard to just NOT read something, and let others decide for themselves?? One of my major irks with many religions is the way they tend to push people around. You can teach a belief system, but don't try to push your values on the world as a whole. Just because YOU believe one thing, doesn't mean I have to.

Guatami - I did know that The Satanic Verses was banned in certain countries. I am curious as to how you feel about it when you read it.

Samantha - Thanks!

Bobbi said...

Great post! I think censorship is a bad thing for our country!

By the way, it was your review of Evernight that got me interested in this book. So I have you to thank!

Carl V. said...

Censorship is indeed an ugly word. And if any censorship is okay, what wouldn't be okay is to gear censorship in the favor or a radical 'minority'. That is what gives them power, feeds the fear, and perpetuates it. Plus this 'radical minority' is essentially a group of violent thugs (as is any group of people who practices wanton terrorism). So why should we be afraid of them or structure things in life to appease them. Hell lets make it required reading for everyone and flush out these 'radicals' so that we know who we are dealing with and can face fear head on!

Carl V. said...

Oh, and having my dander up made me forget that I am really looking forward to your thoughts on Secret History. I read it over a decade ago and it still sticks with me.

Trish said...

I read about this somewhere else as well and I think it is ridiculous. Really not sure what it says for the advancement of understanding and tolerance. To me it seems to be perpetuating the problem.

Chris said...

I've been following this too. It's a hot topic on the Smart Bitches blog. If people wish to protest, then they should since it's their right but to not publish a book which was clearly about to be released is ridiculous. It's about fear. People are so scared these days but doesn't that mean that the few extremists out there get their way?

cj said...

I couldn't agree with you more about this topic. In fact, I posted about it back on August 7th.

It's a scary trend, one we seriously need to stop.


tanabata said...

I can't believe they pulled it after committing to publishing it! Censorship is something that frustrates the hell out of me as well. Like you said, if they have an issue with a book, they just shouldn't read it. It's not like anyone is forcing them too. Unlike them forcing their opinions on others. Sigh.

Tracee said...

Hi - I tried to email you but it got kicked back. I was wondering if you might be interested in reviewing books for me. If so, please email me at amateurdelivre at gmail dot com for more info. Great blog!


Wendy said...

Well, I know you know how I feel about censorship *laughs* You said this VERY well, Stephanie and I couldn't agree more.