Do you think that certain books should be kept away from children?
I would generally have said no:
Freedom of speech! No to censorship!
Being in touch with reality is important!
It’s preparation for the real world!
But then I realised that as a teenager I’ve read a few of those books and sometimes I wish I hadn’t…
Fowles’ The Collector.I still struggle to find the artistic value in it.
Three Comrades – pretty dark. I guess given the amount of “white lies” we tell kids the disillusionment has to start at some stage, but there is something hope-shattering in this. Same as in Maupassant’s Bel Ami
I won’t make many friends by saying I don’t like The Catcher in the Rye – and it fascinates me how it became popular among teenagers. Ew though.
Lolita. Goes without saying.
When you think about it, Anna Karenina even is quite PG. Then again so is nearly all of Shakespeare. I think that it’s easier not to suspend disbelief with things written in super archaic or unfamiliar language – same with the Greek myths, hence they don’t hit as hard. Perhaps that’s the reason most of my books non grata come from the last 150 years.
Have you ever regretted reading a work of fiction?
I have a problem: I really don’t like giving up books I started.
Is the solution to read them to the end?
No, because they are either full of mistakes and fakes or mostly because they are shallow.
Is the solution to not read them?
No, because then I’d start living in an echo chamber and that’s bad.
Is there a solution?
Yes: entertain a point of view and be able to throw it in the bin without succumbing to the slavish “it’s in a book, therefore it’s right”.
Does that mean I should read everything?
Absolutely not. For me, the purpose of reading is to come across ideas that I am not familiar with.
I recently asked the Slate Star Codex reddit thread how they choose their books because modern non-fiction has been getting on my nerves. Some good points came up and I will add some of my own (relating to both fiction and non-fiction):
1. The main criterion to optimise for is the product of age and readability
Saw The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck on the best sellers book shelf?
3. If it is on your favourite subject/sub-genre, older than 50 years and still relevant, it’s worth a read
Like Sherlock Holmes? You will probably like Hercule Poirot
4. If the author is a journalist first and foremost, don’t bother with it
Let’s not get political and mention names, but they usually have a lot of interests to defend
5. Authors who spend a lot of time in your part of the world are generally easier to read
Occasionally, for me, reading modern American authors feels like watching an informercial. I mean I really don’t want the first 3 chapters explaining why I should read the book, it’s already in my hands ffs.
6. Sample three random pages in the book: if a paragraph doesn’t make sense, the whole book it unlikely to make sense
This is what I do in book stores. Style is part of substance. When it comes to reading books by academics, this is especially important.
7. If the book itself promises to change your life, destroy as many copies as you can, so that our grandchildren are saved from the intellectual pollution
I could go on a rant, but I won’t.
There are obviously exceptions to the above.
8. Books by the same author seem like a good idea, but this isn’t a reliable rule
J. R. R. Tolkien, for example.
9. Reviews aren’t very important
Arthur explains it well above.
Case in point: The Da Vinci Code is 4.5/5 on Amazon.
The Russians have a law against offending the feelings of religious followers.
It came up again today because a magazine did a (somewhat) explicit photoshoot in a church they considered abandoned:
It turns out the church wasn’t entirely abandoned and was occasionally used. This may result in a court case against the model/photographer/publication involved: not because they perpetrated land belonging to the church, but because they offended people’s religious beliefs.
A man recently received a suspended sentence for catching Pokemon in another church for this reason.
Is the fact that the Russians want to protect the religious any different to the snowflakery millennials are getting accused of?
In West it is kind of the opposite, but the same principle applies. We’re most worried about offending those who fight for more modern things, e.g. non-traditional genders.
It’s a past time of mine to observe the parallels between two places that most people consider as different as night and day. And it allows me to ask: why is there such a global cross-cultural tendency to protect the feelings of minorities through law?
In a recent case, a woman was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter because of what she said. Of course, her words were evil. It was emotional abuse taken to the limit.
But can words really be equated to violence?
I think that this would only encourage physical violence by closing a steam valve. It makes little of victims of real violence. There’s something wrong with putting genuinely violent people in the same category with someone who likes to rant.
Incitement to hatred? Obviously it would be ideal if we all agreed and lived in peace and love. But assuming that we’re not moving to a utopia any time soon, isn’t it better to allow people to peacefully rant and speak freely than to encourage them to band into groups and get violent against the establishment which is what we achieve by marginalising them? In fact, ranters of a denomination could verbally spar with other types of ranters. Might it even be a healthy debate?
Perhaps non-violent hating is like a small forest fire:
“Small forest fires periodically cleanse the system of the most flammable material, so this does not have the opportunity to accumulate. Systematically preventing forest fires from taking place ‘to be safe’ makes the big one much worse.” – Nassim Taleb. Antifragile : things that gain from disorder.
Similarly, marginalising the “haters” just leads to real violence.
Having said that, I can relate. I have often felt like I needed trigger warnings. I get very upset at certain images in films and documentaries. But I would never feel that someone owes it to me to prevent me from them: if I made a choice to watch a film, that’s just part of the consequences. Being honest, I don’t watch that many films for this precise reason.
Virtually every book or film I process results in an overwhelming spillage of thoughts and emotions (hence, this blog). In fact, I am still haunted by a number of books I read.
When I was in school, we were always given a book list for the summer. Part of me wishes I’d never read Three Comradesand The Collector. Part of me is enraged that there wasn’t a trigger warning on those books. But by reading these books I learnt what I do and don’t like – and why.
But let’s just imagine that words aren’t violence and flip the question: should it be a crime to offend people’s feelings?
P. S. I am meant to be working on Philip Larkin‘s poetry, but I’m not a fan, hence, all this 🙂