Read All The Things
We need a world that is free from this discouragement and censorship. We need a world that inspires us to lose ourselves in the magic of storytelling. We need a world that gives us the opportunity to glean to our hearts’ content. We need a world that encourages us to engage and to think critically about all books. And yes, that includes Fifty Shades of Grey.
I wrote that a couple of years ago on an old blog with a name entirely too gargantuan to remember. But the sentiment remains. Not only do we need a world free from censorship, we need a world free from the misguided understanding that we all somehow share the same values, philosophies, interests, sense of appropriateness.
Your obscenity is not my obscenity. We are all different. We like different things. And that's okay so long as your interests aren't infringing upon the interests of others.
On the other side of things, I think it's also important to read things that challenge our viewpoints, kick us in the pants, throw wrenches into our clean, narrow worlds. If we don't read the things that we otherwise wouldn't based upon the complacent notion that we know what we like, we become narrow-minded; we become stagnant. But that is my thing, or it could be yours. I don't want to presume.
Franz Kafka said it best:
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.
Regarding censorship, I think it's lame. But it's something that will always be with us. Parents not letting their kids read certain books. Bookstores stocking shelves to serve a specific political demographic. Religious organizations omitting titles to align with their teachings.
All of this is fine and dandy and expected. Just don't let it keep others from reading. Don't remove the chance for my kid to experience Huckleberry Finn for the first time.
Oh, and listen to the latest episode of the Joy Sandwich podcast on this very topic! Banned Books!