Monday, September 27, 2010

Top 10 Reasons I Ban Books

Post by Jenny

In honor of Banned Books Week, I have a confession: I ban books. Sometimes I do it regretfully, sometimes I do it with great relish. Here are ten reasons why:
10. Brain Ache – This occurs when a story is so convoluted, I need Stephen Hawking to get me through the first two chapters;
9. Ridiculous Character Names – I’m sorry, but I can’t read 300 pages about the adventures of Duffy von Winklesnout;
8. No Story – If a story arc is flatline, my interest is, too;
7. Adverb Abuse – When the characters smile happily, glare menacingly, skip gleefully, ogle lustfully, I put the book down. Hastily. (Harry Potter being a worthy exception);
6. Deus ex machina (“god out of the machine”) – No plot should need the equivalent of divine intervention to reach resolution, unless it’s in a book about…well, divine intervention;
5. Weird Formatting – This includes lack of punctuation, phonetic spelling, anything that makes me overly conscious of the act of reading. Lauren Myracle’s text-messaging format (TTYL, etc.) is a stroke of genius for her YA audience. For me, it’s just a stroke (I tried, though. I really did);
4. Overpopulation – I’m from a small family. I’ve never taught a freshman-level course or directed a Broadway production. Too many characters overwhelm me;
3. Apathy – If I don’t care about the plot or characters by page 100 (max), I’m out;
2. Envy – When a mediocre book makes it big (huge! colossal!), I know that reading it will make me yank on my hair and eat too many carbs. (This ban is often trumped by curiosity, but not always.); and
1. No Payoff - Frank Conroy said: "The author makes a tacit deal with the reader. You hand them a backpack. You ask them to place certain things in it - to remember, to keep in mind - as they make their way up the hill. If you hand them a yellow Volkswagen and they have to haul this to the top of the mountain - to the end of the story - and they find that this Volkswagen has nothing whatsoever to do with your story, you're going to have a very irritated reader on your hands." Hear, hear.

My point is—yes, I do have a point, and thank you for asking—I have the freedom to ban any book from my personal library for whatever reason I choose. But I would never presume to do the same for someone else.

And how about my kids? Are there books I don’t want them reading now…in five years…ever? You bet your bookmarks. I can’t look over their shoulders every time they choose a book, however, so my husband and I are helping them develop the skills to make their own decisions—and a respect for the Constitution, which gives them that right.

What banned books are you reading this week?


Rayna M. Iyer said...

Now those are perfectly good reasons to ban a book, though I would rather just warn people, and let them suffer if they do not heed my warning.
I am not worried about my kids- they will chuck the book away the moment it fails to grip them.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm going to join your revolution and ban books for these reason too!

Join the revolution!


Cricket McRae said...

Great post -- love the term "brain ache."

As for beloved banned books, Finnegan's Wake immediately comes to mind. But talk about brain ache!
Hearth Cricket

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I can’t think of any better reasons to ban books on a personal level than the ones you listed! I also think by teaching your kids the skills to choose their own books and make their own decisions you are doing them and society a wonderful service.

I just recently finished reading Tortilla Curtain, which I thought was a timely and interesting look at the immigration issues from all sides. I can’t see why someone would want to ban it, but it is on the 'challenged list' this year.

Kerrie said...

I guess I better re-write my latest novel, The Life and Adventures of Duffy von Winklesnout.

I am always shocked that one of my favorite all time books, To Kill A Mockingbird is still on the banned books list. I read it in Jr. High and I turned out to be a relatively sane, contributing member of society.

I was also surprised to see Kite Runner on the 2008 list. Another great story.

Thanks for this great post and for the reminder that we should teach our kids to be discerning readers, not tell them what they can't read.

Name: Luana Krause said...

My parents let me read whatever books I wanted. I was in high school when "The Exorcist" film was released and that's when I read the novel. It scared me to death. Mom wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Name: Luana Krause said...

My parents let me read whatever books I wanted. I was in high school when "The Exorcist" film was released and that's when I read the novel. It scared me to death. Mom wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Jenny said...

Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. I know this is a hot topic on the blogs this week.

The ALA slogan for this year's Banned Books Week sums it up so perfectly for me: "Think for yourself and let others do the same." We are wise to heed that advice in so many areas of our lives.

You don't have to rewrite, Kerrie. Just search and replace :-)

Luana, I had the exact same experience with The Exorcist!

Happy reading!

Patricia Stoltey said...

For me, a banned book becomes something I must read, even if I never would have considered reading it before the banning. LOL

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