Looking at our favorite books from yesterday a variety of reasons are given for banning them: drug use, violence, sexual references, mentions of magic or the occult. Why do you think people want books with these (or other) content banned from schools or libraries?
For Banned Book Week, we’re going to do something special: instead of our usual monthly podcast episode, we’re doing a series of roundtable-style blog posts. So, each day this week we’ll post our responses to various questions related to banned books.
Today’s question is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BANNED BOOK?
For reference, we used this list.
Every year, I make a point to re-read one of my favourite book series’ of all time: Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Consisting of three novels (Northern Lights — entitled The Golden Compass in the US — The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), this series marketed for young readers and young adults is a brilliant literary reversal of John Milton’s classic epic poem, Paradise Lost, even taking its own series’ title from the same poem:
Into this wild Abyss
The womb of Nature, and perhaps her grave–
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds,–
Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frith
He had to cross.
I love this series. I’ve loved it since I first picked it up back when I was in elementary school. However I often find it difficult to talk about this series without needing to acknowledge the…notoriety this series holds with many (usually religious) societies
and people. One publication actually called the His Dark Materials the “stuff of nightmares and worthy of the bonfire.” Wow. Them’s fightin’ words — and, for the record: I believe book burning is the stuff of nightmares and demonstrates nothing more than a level of ignorance and hatred so great, that there are not enough superlatives in the world that can, in any way, encompass it.
Bringing it more close to home, I can speak from experience the reactions that even seeing someone else reading this series can have upon the intolerant. While I spent my childhood in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, my young adulthood was spent in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. Now, when I started reading this series in New York at the tender age of around nine or ten, nobody bothered me about it. But come the age of seventeen-ish, when I picked up this book to re-read it? I got spewed with quite of bit of religious diatribe and verbal vitriol, a lot of it from people who hadn’t even read the books.
But despite all that, I don’t want to talk about the issues various religious groups have with these novels, or even the ridiculousness I have experienced over the years when people see me re-reading Pullman’s trilogy — you may take those as you will. Instead, what I want to discuss is the more insidious form of censorship that this series has experienced in North America: the invisible kind of censorship. I say invisible because, unless you were to own multiple versions of the series, or happen to like looking at books’ Wikipedia pages (as I do), you might not have known that several lines in the North American publication of the third novel in the series, The Amber Spyglass, were censored by the publishers.
CAVEAT EMPTOR: This post will contain spoilers for the His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, specifically details relating to the character arc of the protagonist in its concluding novel, The Amber Spyglass. You have been warned.
Personal observation: my chosen photo has never been more relevant than it is in this moment.
I went to Catholic school for 16 years. This provided me with a somewhat different school experience than many of my friends, and certainly with myriad stories that friends still love to hear about the different things I learned and the different classes I took than my public school peers. One such class was a morality class I took as a junior in high school, during which we discussed pretty much any topic under the sun, with special emphasis on the Big Ones. You know, the ones that come up in the news all the time.
Like Harry Potter. When I was a junior in high school I was waiting eagerly for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which would come out over the summer before my senior year. The Order of the Phoenix movie was released that same summer.
“Too vulgar,” “crude language,” and “inappropriate for a middle school audience.” What do those bring to mind? Maybe heroin use, prostitution, murder, torture? In the case of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, these complaints refer to a 14-year-old main character talking about erections and masturbation, and discussing how community members’ alcoholism affects his life.
Readers, you have been warned. This post is going to talk about erections, masturbation, and alcoholism. If that’s too vulgar and crude for you, you may want to avoid the Backroom Whispering blog this month, because we’re talking about books that have been banned or challenged for a variety of reasons.
In this episode of The Book Table, some of our gaming whisperers discuss elements of storytelling in some of their favourite video games.
For listeners of The Book Table, Audible is offering a free audiobook and a 30-day free trial! Sign up at audibletrial.com/TheBookTable.
The Book Table is a podcast from Backroom Whispering Productions. Our theme music is by Mark Wayne.
Recently, a book club associated with BWP read The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. While I had overall mixed feelings about the book (the summary: it was a bit too academic and philosophical, and not enough plot for my taste), one thing did strike me and remind me of one of my favorite books of all time. Shevek, our protagonist and genius physicist, happens upon a tidbit of knowledge (in this case, learning the language spoken on a different planet) that flips his life upside-down. This situation reminded me heavily of Montag in Fahrenheit 451, who has a random urge to take a book home with him, and discovers a universe of knowledge and an intellectual revolution. In this post, I’ll talk about how reading and learning new things can change your life forever.
(This post contains spoilers for the above books.)
Storytelling and world-building in games can be quite hit or miss for me. Therefore, in this post, I will examine two first-person role-playing fantasy games (RPGs) that I feel possess both good stories and well-developed lore: the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age.
A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) by George R.R. Martin has been around now for over 20 years, and the HBO show adaptation, Game of Thrones, has just completed its sixth season. Both the book series and the show are incredibly popular with a huge, devoted fanbase. As a result, the official forum as well as sites like Reddit have ridiculously active discussions filled with fans who have massive amounts of information about the ASOIAF universe and people who have very strong feelings about them. My participation in such communities has taught me many things, the primary of which is that the fans who utilize these sites tend to be extremely critical of the HBO adaptation.
My pop psychology analysis of this widespread criticism leads me to believe that a lot of negativity comes from fan frustration concerning how long it has taken Martin to write the much anticipated sixth novel of the ASOAIF series, The Winds of Winter. As the years stretch on between the release of A Dance with Dragons and its sequel, everyone waiting for it wants it more and more desperately, and finds themselves increasingly frustrated with the fact that the only new ASOIAF material being released is the television show. I can’t tell you how many people have outright said the only reason they watch the show is because they need something to fill their time while they wait for the books, and while I think this amounts to a very small percentage of show viewers, it seems to be a large percentage of vocal internet critics. Understandably, the thing you turn to for distraction while you wait for the thing you actually want is never really going to meet your needs, so you probably don’t feel overwhelmingly good about it.
Although this post does not discuss specific events, it will be most interesting to people familiar with both the book and TV series, and links may contain spoilers. You have been warned.
Voiceovers in TV and movies are, as Rebecca wrote in her Outlander post on Monday, a great way to transition a first-person story to the screen. I think they are especially relevant in books adapted to movie or TV because people who have read the books know more about the characters than people who only watch the movie or TV show. However, I think some adaptations pull this off better than others: some movies/shows use too many voiceovers, explaining the scenes when they’re already obvious, and some use too few, leaving viewers to wonder what the characters’ motivations are. In today’s post, I’d like to talk about the two ends of the spectrum.