Last Tuesday, I did a speech for my political discourse class on extremist literary censorship. In researching for it, I came across some interesting stuff – some of it depressing, naturally, but some of it encouraging. The thing that really stood out to me is how often attempts to stifle dissent via literature actually strengthen writers’ abilities – instead of being allowed to point out specifics in their own societies, they have to dig deeper and find the universal. They have to learn to put their theme between the lines, avoid preaching it outright, hone their ability to write with subtlety. All of those skills are important to good writing, especially if a writer values social commentary.
The other beautiful irony of banned books and persecuted authors is the number of times that such bad publicity backfires and simply becomes free advertising. Let this be a lesson to any writers who worry about being controversial…. I hope somebody with serious motivation decides my book is dangerously subversive and obscenely irreverent. Maybe if they’re loud-mouthed enough, it’ll spark a publisher’s interest – ha!
And I really must finally get around to reading some Upton Sinclair soon, because I have a newfound fondness for him based on the fact that, when Oil was banned in Boston, he paraded through the streets reading obscene passages from the book of Genesis and from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a protest…. Has to be the best protest modus operandi I’ve heard of recently.
This is a very interesting post given the week some of my author friends have had. A day after launching her book, Emlyn Chand got a bad review, and not a legitimate one since it wreaked of form letter and it was clear the reviewer had not read the book. At first the author was crushed, but then she realized, if she’s the target of false 1 star reviews, she must be doing something right.