Friday, July 14, 2006

Vrettos' Skin/Censorship

There has been a lot of discussion in the local papers about censorship. A local high school had The Lovely Bones and The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night on the recommended reading list. A parent complained; they were taken off. More parents complained. Since I am rather sensitive to bad language in books, this has caused me to think even more.

I have decided that one of the big motivating factors for me is MONEY. I can only afford to buy so many books. I can't buy everything. So if there is a book with a lot of bad language, chances are good that there is another equally good book out there that doesn't have it. I will choose that one. Such is the case with Vrettos' Skin. A very compelling story of a boy whose sister struggles with(and loses to)anorexia. Would this book circulate well in my library. Yes. Any title about anorexia does (notable exception The Bigger Book of Lydia, which is just weird.). Since Skin uses the f-word more times than I can count, I really don't need it. I have no problem with the public library having it-- they can afford to buy more than I can.

Now, that said, there are books that are so compelling that I excuse the language. Volponi's Black and White is the prime example here. But in the case of Skin, the language was gratuitous. There was really no point. I think that using obscenities repeatedly is the sign of someone who is lazy in his writing.

There is also the school of thought that says that the books students read in school should reflect our expectations for their writing. We wouldn't allow language like this anywhere in the school. Why should it be in the books?

Finally, the other reason that I steer away from language like this is that I don't have time to fight with parents about it. If someone challenges a book at my school, I would pull it. I would probably, however, suggest that the parent pay the $20 I spent on the book so that I could buy another one. I don't make purchases lightly. If there is bad language, it's somehow justified, and rest assured I have read the entire book and thought it through very carefully.

*Sigh* Why couldn't Skin have been written without the bad language? It would only have made the story better.

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