Today's guest, Drosdelnoch, has been here before. When I started planning my events for this week, I couldn't resist asking him for his thoughts on banning books. Dros reviews books and games at his site, Falcata Times, and reviews childrens books at his other site, Tatty's Treasure Chest. Today he is talking about whether we should older or historical books to suit modern attitudes.
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People that know me are aware that I’m what you could term as a voracious reader, so when I was asked to write a piece for Bea about Banned Books I was pretty much lost for what I could say. Yes you can talk about the unfairness of what is seen by some to be prejudices against classics (such as the recent cases against Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Study in Scarlet as it was unfair to Mormons) or test cases in legal history (such as the DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover 1959 Obscene Publication Act legal battle) or even about the reworking of some due to unfavourable use words that are seen as against modern sensibilities such as Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where people have wanted parts changed to remove racist slurs (although Twain was a friend of Booker T Washington.)
Yet for all this and the arguments should we change books to fit modern attitudes when the title has already been in print for a large number of years? Surely by doing so we’re acknowledging that there is something wrong with it and in Twain’s case it was an accurate depiction of the area and time to which it was written. Yes it can scandalise or offend a minority of people but the point is if we start doing this to books are we going to end up having to nit-pick everything out there. Would people have felt that Mississippi Burning would be stronger for heavy editing of the script or should we rewrite history so that it’s politically correct? And if we do that are we opening the doors for fringe minorities to take a firmer grip on society in order to further their own goals?
Personally I think the literature that we have defines the culture to which it pertains, it allows readers to make up their own minds, to follow their own beliefs and thoughts and to change a piece because it doesn’t fit in with modern interpretation destroys a part of ourselves as well as dishonouring what people have fought and died for, our freedoms, and to not learn from it or to accept the historical documents would mean that as George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfil it.”