Friday, October 5, 2007

Magic, Sex, and Violence

Banning (and burning) books is a long tradition. If we jumped into a time machine and went back a few million years, we’d probably find one caveman destroying another’s cave paintings. We think we're more civilized now, but banning books is still a popular activity in some circles.

So what is it that sets a person off enough to want to deprive his/her neighbors of the pleasure of reading a specific book?

Being the nerd that I am, I set out to answer that question. After a long and exhausting five minutes, I had the answer. Sex, violence, and the paranormal. Most of the books on the American Library Association’s list deal in one way or another with one or more of these. Why? Beats me.

I guess the book on the list that affected me the most was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. No magic, but sex and violence is key to this story (as is religion). I think Atwood’s ability to twist the world we live in and make it both terrifying and yet familiar, the same and yet horribly different is the strength of this book. I remember thinking as I read, "I can’t believe she actually did that!" And so learned that risk taking when writing a novel can lead to a stronger story.

Because the staff here at the Otherworld Diner write stories of magic (with varying doses of sex and violence), one or more of our books might upset a person or group enough to earn a place on a list of challenged books.

I can’t speak for the rest of the staff, but I’d be honored.


  1. I’m a fan of Margaret Atwood too. “The Handmaid's Tale,” was the first book I read of Margaret Atwood. My favorite book of hers is "The Blind Assassin” Although it’s followed closely by “Oryx and Crake,” “Alias Grace,” and “The Robber Bride.”

  2. Magic and sex, at least, are two of my favorite things to see in books. Do they ban genre fiction or just stuff that "children" might be expected to encounter?


  3. I've always thought the two went together, sometimes sex is a magical and beautiful thing.

  4. This book was on my "need to read" list for such a long time, and I'm ashamed to admit that I never did get to it. You've just put it back on my list! Great post!