I was going to post daily on Banned Books Week- because there’s a lot of noise about it on the internet, but frankly, I can’t see that there ARE any banned UK books are there? Please correct me if I’m wrong.
From the research I’ve done, it seems that some books have never seen the light of day, such as "how to be a terrorist" (made up title) and books like that, but that makes perfect sense in the same way the powers that be would crack down on "Burgling for Dummies" or "So You Want To Be A Serial Killer" (I’m talking How To books here, obviously, as all of the above could be very viable as FICTION.
I think that first and foremost, what a child gets its hands on or what it doesn’t hangs (as many things do) in the hands of the parents. Obviously not all parents care what their kid is reading, in the same way that they wouldn’t care if they are playing video games well above their age, or watching porn on the net etc, but it shouldn’t really be the school’s job to police this. I understand that many of the so called “banned books” are banned by libraries and schools—federal banning is (again, talking about UK and USA and correct me if I’m wrong) isn’t something that happens much.
I am sure there was a measure of “banned books” in my school when i was a kid, and I wasn’t aware of it. Books that were unsuitable for under 18s for example – you certainly couldn’t get Henry Miller in the library. I read the Tropic books at a friend’s house, whose father owned them. I’d probably find them less graphic today than many erotic novels available anywhere.
My mother DID ban some books. But—being a headmistress—she only did it from what she considered to be “good writing.” She never bought any Enid Blyton for me, nor Doctor Suess nor Roald Dahl – there were many many books I never discovered that I didn’t know, but I never felt the lack of The Cat In The Hat and James and the Giant Peach. She said before her death that had JKRowling been around then, she wouldn’t have bought those for me, either. This of course didn’t stop me mainlining Blyton at friends’ houses.
However she let me loose in the adult library, and I was allowed to borrow anything. I don’t remember her ever vetting anything I got—and I was free to guzzle all the classics that she had at home, I read Maupassant at probably a tender age…
So, yeah – I probably agree with schools vetting books. I think some of their choices have been laughable, and some books are probably better kept for children when they get older. The thing about books is that—unlike games and dvds—anyone can buy them. A fourteen year old might (possibly) get a raised eyebrow from a saleperson if they buy Tropic of Cancer from a bookshop, but more than likely the shop assistant will think it’s a travel book with Michael Palin.
Here’s a list of the “top” 16 banned books. There are a ton of lists on this subject and they all seem to be different. I’m proud to say I’ve read ‘em all—most of them before i was 20, too.