Saturday, October 15, 2005

In Favor of Banning Books

The blogosphere has been full of book banning memes all month, designed, so far as I can tell, as opportunities for bloggers to posture, to praise their favorite books, or (if lucky), both. Much of this has been driven by the American Library Association which, truth be told, is not among my favorite organizations, but my distaste for them lacks enough intensity for me to complain overmuch.

I would like to come out in favor of banning books. Most book-banners want to censor material because it is morally or politically objectionable; I, on the other hand, wish to ban certain materials because they are aesthetically displeasing, yet have somehow become so over-rated that they cannot seem to fall out of print. Clearly, the only way to save humanity from these foul ditches of crappy prose, junior-high poetry, contrived plotlines, vacuous posturing, and ridiculous characters is to burn these books in the public square and strike any record of them from all bibliographies, card catalogues, and databases ... finally salting the earth of any location contaminated by them.

A few of these aesthetically objectionable books, in no particular order:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (which, I'm delighted to note, is already in the top 100 most challenged)
The Handmaid's Tale
The Collected Works of John Grisham (not really lit, but I hate him so much I had to include him)
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Awakening
The Collected Works of Tom Wolfe
All H.G. Wells except The Time Machine, War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
A Separate Peace (OK, I don't remember this one well, but since my memory of reading it in high school has been repressed, it couldn't have been pretty)
Jude the Obscure (not obscure enough)
Lady Chatterly's Lover
The Collected Works of Ayn Rand
The Crucible
The Pilgrim's Progress
Billy Budd (and I love Melville so much, too. Why does this piece of garbage always get anthologized? Possibly his worst work)
A Doll's House
The Collected Works of Pablo Neruda (Don't get me started...)
Things Fall Apart
The Collected Works of Toni Morrison except Song of Solomon (which is so good, it redeems all her other stuff ... Toni, come back to us!)
The Showings of Julian of Norwich (See? Something medieval!)
The Razor's Edge
Ragged Dick (and by extension everything else by Alger)
Looking Backward

... etc. There should be something on that list to displease everyone. By the way, if you plan to comment, I'd prefer you didn't defend one of the books on the list (an impossibility, since all are indefensible) -- instead, add your own books for us to ban.

h/t Poliblog and Public Brewery


  1. There's the whole highly bannable genre of books that mislead people about the Middle Ages, including A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester. I'd also ban The DaVinci Code, mostly because I'm sick of people erroneously believing that I care to hear their opinion of it.

    Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. What kind of jackass needs 600 pages to figure out why his son is so bored? He's been staring at your back for the entire road-trip, dude!

    The Hero With A Thousand Faces. When I flip through this book, I recall memories of my grandfather slicing baloney at the kitchen table--and not because he had read Joseph Campbell.

  2. A Handmaid's Tale!! Hey, can we ban the movie too??

  3. On the Road. I just can't finish it. And you can't pay me enough to try.

  4. I can get behind most of your list, but I can't forgive you for The Razor's Edge. That book ROCKS! (Probably the strangest single sentence written of Maugham ever, BTW. *LOL*)

    I'll add Return of the Native to the list. I still have nightmares about that damned heath. The only good part of that book is Eustacia Vye's name: the best character name ever.

    How about Wuthering Heights? Makes me wish they'd all just fall down on the moors and die.

  5. While I don't agree with everything on your list, I wanted to tatoo this across my chest. . . well, at least stand up and cheer:

    "Clearly, the only way to save humanity from these foul ditches of crappy prose, junior-high poetry, contrived plotlines, vacuous posturing, and ridiculous characters is to burn these books in the public square and strike any record of them from all bibliographies, card catalogues, and databases ... finally salting the earth of any location contaminated by them."

    (who is on her own campaign to make adolescent-esque-angst-ridden poetry a criminal offense)

  6. Ulysses--if it meant never having to discuss this utter drivel that goes on and on and on ad nauseum ever again, then I think I could get on board with the whole book-banning thing...

  7. What, I wonder, does it say about me, that I am named after a character in one of these books...

  8. Kira,

    Apparently I'm named for a character in one of my mother's soap operas, so I don't any room to talk.

  9. Anonymous7:13 PM

    The Celestine Prophecy

    Why was this popular? Typical dialog:

    "What do you think?"
    "I don't know. What do you think?"

    - CIV

  10. I'd love to add to the list, but you seem to have already included the dregs of literature. I'll have to think about this.

  11. Actually, I'd be in favour of including everything Heinlein wrote after Starship Troopers. Starship Troopers survives because there are some nice bits about killing Bugs.

    If possible, Ayn Rand's books should be burned twice over, the second time around with the bodies of various architects added as additional fuel.

    Anne Rice's novels as well - popula culture was already annoying and perverse enough before we had to deal with vapid 'dark souls' mooning after impossibly attractive and metrosexual vampires. A vampire is an undead corpse that needs to feed on the blood of the living to sustain itself - there is nothing erotic in that concept. Get over it.

    I'd consider adding Thomas Pynchon's books. Really, there is such a thing as too many damned words. A few of Don DeLillo's novels could get the axe, too, especially White Noise. I could have done without wading through the ramblings of middle-aged academic types coming to terms with their own mortality, toxic spill or not.

  12. Anonymous9:24 PM

    Stranger in a Strange Land is just a piece of filth. There's just too much messed up materials in there.

  13. Anonymous9:54 PM

    Who do you think you are? You want to ban books because you think they are "aesthetically displeasing." Thats great that you have an opinion but for the love of god don't force it on everyone else. It is not your place to tell other people what they can and can't read. If they want your opinion then they will ask. And to say that we should burn books in public is just outright disrespectful to the authors. You have no idea what these authors put into these books. And some of these books are classics. If you don't want to read them then don't, but don't force your beliefs on others.

  14. The Collected works of Dan Brown, since they're pretty much the same, and an book that's ever appeared on a school's required reading list, espececially works of O. Henry

  15. Anonymous5:11 PM

    Personally I would have to say that you all only want to ban these wonderful works of literature because they frighten you or do not agree with you "morals". However why ban a book when you can simply walk past it in a store or library and allow someone else who perhaps likes the book to pick it up. Just because you do not like the author or that paticular book. Quit banning things you can ignore. Books being one thing you can ignore.

  16. Anonymous1:21 AM

    ur such an idiot, most of you ppl who left comments are, cept those who also said ur an idiot. zomfg cant u get ur head out of ur ass for like 3 seconds and see that ur a blubbering biggot telling other people what they can and cannot read . well guess wat buddy, 2/3 the freaking WORLD loves those books, ur just one guy wining cuz he didnt understand the plot line...

  17. Anonymous1:55 AM

    To the above anonymous comment I must say that you must be one of the smartest human beings to comment on this post to date. I particularly loved your grammatical prowess and your spelling is equally commendable. I would put you on the level of only the best girls around eleven years of age. Your argument was very witty and riveting. Thank you for this prime example of exactly the type of person gaining personal enjoyment from the above-mentioned books.

  18. Anonymous10:10 AM

    You ARE an idiot. No one with a brain would really say that it's a good idea to ban books just because they hate the author. Do you really think banning books is going to do anything in this world except make it so there's less to read for children? If people like you keep going and banning books, we won't have books to read, and we're not going to have any books to read. Is that really what you want to happen? If we keep banning books, then reading will be just a memory, because of morons like you who think that it's a good idea to ban books. And I may only be twelve years old, which may make you just read this comment and think, oh, she just doesn't understand this stuff. But guess what? I do. So why don't you just stop being an idiot and stop thinking we should ban books just because SOME people don't like them.