A recent blogging discussion has prompted me to ask the question: What is book banning? I’ve never thought it right to ban a book, but since I’ve recently been accused of doing just that, I thought I’d ask all of you what you think. Do I actually favor book banning? I’m stumped here.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about Stephen King’s On Writing. I didn’t like the book. My main argument was that good books should be determined by a good story and good writing; many best-selling authors’ writing is mediocre, so being a best-seller doesn’t necessarily make the authors good. King’s book seemed to explain how to become a best-seller, not how to write well. I said in the post, “I’ve never read any Stephen King, ” but that should have been, “I’ve never read any Stephen King until now,” as I had just read On Writing.
Well, this week I got a furious comment from a reader. She accused me of being unfair since I had not read Stephen King’s books and suggested a book by him that I should read. I responded by clarifying that I had read a book by him: On Writing. I suppose that I should have also added that the writing in On Writing and the excerpts in On Writing from his other books haven’t convinced me of his superior writing ability, and, as I don’t normally like horror in any form, reading the book she recommended wasn’t on my list. But I only wrote the first part.
Her response to me was even angrier. At first, I deleted her second comment because it seemed to be angry hate mail that was somewhat irrelevant to the discussion. However, I usually wait a day before responding to anything that makes me annoyed or mad; I’ve since reinstated the comment because really, it strikes me now as rather amusing. Besides, she’s calling me a book banner: how can I then censor her comment? Here’s part of it if you don’t want to bounce over there:
…[F]or an author and a book lover, you argue like a book banner. Don’t bother replying to this, I am removing this site from my bookmarks.
Here’s my question: Where do I sound like a book banner? What is book banning, by those definitions?
In my post, I made it clear that I didn’t like the particular book or the particular author. I have no intention of reading anything else by him. I suggest we all take a more critical view of the books we read, other than “It’s a best-seller.”
Does encouraging better book choice make me a “book banner?” Does saying “Don’t waste your time with this book!” make me a book banner? If so, then any blogger who reviews a book they dislike is a “book banner!”
So what is book banning? Here are some scenarios. I don’t think they’re all book banning.
- A librarian decides not purchase a certain book. (I’d say this isn’t book banning. Libraries can only buy so many books a year!)
- A librarian removes a certain book from circulation after parents complain. (Yes, this seems like book banning. If parents don’t like a book, they shouldn’t read it or they could encourage their children not to read it. That would be parenting a young child, not banning a book; a librarian removing a book would be making it unavailable to others. But even then, parents and children can find the book elsewhere. It’s still not unreadable.)
- Parents ask their young child not to read a certain book. (I’d say this isn’t book banning. Parents have the right to encourage children to read books with situations and morals appropriate for their age, and, most importantly, their maturity level.)
- Parents forbid their older child from reading a certain book. (I think this is border-line book banning. Older kids are able to choose for themselves. Forbidden status just makes it enticing anyway. But, older children will read what they want to read, regardless of parental influence.)
What do you think? What does book banning actually mean? Does not wanting to read Stephen King ever again make me a book banner? Apparently, I need your help, because I didn’t realize I was a book banner!
I concede that I shouldn’t critique authors when I haven’t read everything they’ve written, although I’m sure I’ll keep doing it, as do other bloggers. I suppose it is wrong. But, regardless, I still stand by what I said about Stephen King, and I won’t be reading his horror.
To beth Powers who has made it clear she won’t ever read this (and to anyone else offended by me): As I don’t normally read or like modern fiction, popular or not, I suspect we have different tastes in books. I occasionally read modern fiction, but it takes a really good one (and especially a good story) for me to really like it. There are literally hundreds of book bloggers out there that love modern genre fiction and review it regularly; I wish you luck in finding a blog better in line with your preferences. I’m sorry Rebecca Reads wasn’t a good match for you!
To other book bloggers: As a sub question, what do you do when you receive “hate mail” comments? Do you leave them untouched? Do you try to respond politely? Do you moderate them or edit them? Would that be “comment banning”? Is that wrong on your own personal webpage?