‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘censorship

‘Smoking Martyr’

leave a comment »

I do not personally smoke cigarettes. But let me be clear, I have no problem with people that do smoke as long as it does not get in my face as I hate the smell and would rather not breathe it in.

The following article is interesting though: ‘Smoking Martyr’ Lynn Barber pulls out of festival.

Barber, who writes for the Observer, was due to appear at Richmond’s Book Now festival in November to discuss her memoir, An Education, which tells of the destructive affair she began as a teenager with an older man who picked her up at a bus stop. Her publisher Penguin had supplied a black and white photograph of Barber for inclusion in the festival’s brochure, embroidered scarf around her neck, head thrown back, cigarette in mouth.

But Richmond council deemed that using a picture of an author smoking went against its responsibility to encourage “good health habits”, and asked Barber to provide another. She declined and pulled out of the festival, saying that she had “always wanted to be a Smoking Martyr and obviously this is my opportunity”.

“If a pic of me smoking is such a threat to the good burghers of Richmond, imagine what my presence would do,” she said this morning. Barber, winner of five British Press awards, is also the author of a study of Victorian naturalists, The Heyday of Natural History, along with How to Improve Your Man in Bed and The Single Woman’s Sex Book.

I believe that this festival has every right to deny access or limit the types of people that attend and this includes the type of documentation that they publish (advertising, etc). But even though they have every right to do this it seems a bit much to ask that a photograph of an author be replaced because deemed unworthy of the “good health habits’ that the festival wished to promote.

Lynn-Barber-001This is a book festival not a health fair. I could understand if the primary sponsors of this festival was an organization that was about lung cancer or something of that nature, but this is a festival. Should the festival censor the types of writing that authors and publishers are promoting. God forbid an author have a character that smokes or does drugs or dare I even think it: have sex.

The festival responds as follows:

“A Richmond council spokesman said: “We don’t like to use images of people smoking in our promotional material. As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area, and to be seen to be endorsing smoking, no matter how unintentional, doesn’t complement this.”

What do you think? Is it out a bit much for the festival to demand this photo be changed? I think that she was right to pull out of the festival. I’m sure that if other authors were scrutinized along with their photographs someone, anyone, would find  a reason to object.

I am going to hold a Literary Festival of my own and invite famous authors and publishers but I swear to God if I see one photograph of an author sitting in an armchair it’s off with your damn head.

Your thoughts and commentary?

Written by thebeliever07

August 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Banned Book Week

with one comment


Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW’s 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.


All this week I’ll be randomly selecting books that have been “challenged” or “banned” and then sharing some of my own experiences with various “banned” reads. Check out this list of the most frequently “banned” books.

For a list of specific Canadian Books/Magazines that have been “challenged” or “banned”, check out this link.(PDF)

— Here is an article selected from the PDF link above. —

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

2000—The Durham (ON) Board of Education received numerous complaints about the
immensely popular Harry Potter books being read in classrooms throughout the board’s
schools. A school board official said that the complaints came from fundamentalist
Christian parents.
Cause of objection—As is the case in at least 19 states of the U.S. and other parts of
Canada, parents were concerned that Harry Potter is engaged in wizardry, witchcraft, and
magic-making, and that these activities are inappropriate for young readers.
Update—After listening to the complaints, the administration decided to withdraw the
books from classroom use but left them in school libraries where they would be available
for book reports. One board member said she had wanted the books to be withdrawn
completely from the schools; another member said the board had never been asked to
decide the issue, so the books’ withdrawal amounted to censorship. Several months later,
after a raucous public meeting, the board rescinded its decision to remove the books.
However, in other jurisdictions teachers have been asked not to use the books in the
classroom. This is said to have occurred in a school in Corner Brook (NF) and in
Rockwood Public School in Pembroke (ON). In 2002, the Niagara (ON) District School
Board turned down a parent’s request for the removal of the books from area schools.
The parent said the books contained violence and promoted a religion (Wicca) which is
against the law in Ontario schools. She said that she had not read the books.

Huzzah for books!

Written by thebeliever07

September 27, 2008 at 12:05 pm

You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad

leave a comment »

Offensive Editorial Cartoon on Free Speech

Offensive Editorial Cartoon on Free Speech

Asra Q. Nomani writes in The Wall Street Journal on Sherry Jones’s new historical novel, “The Jewel of Medina” about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Random House has pulled the book for fears of a political and extremist nature. In a statement, Random House said: “We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book.” Over at the Guardian, you can read more about the controversy.

Erin and I were discussing this earlier today and we sorted out on our own that this is obviously a very complicated issue. On the one hand you have many different people, bloggers, writers, publishers, etc, making judgements of a critical and editorial nature, some without having ever read the piece of fiction in question.

Should Ms. Jones be aware of sensitive nature of this type of fiction and its subject matter; without a doubt she should realize that this type of writing, especially in the post 9/11 climate in which we live, will result in many controversial views.

I personally feel though that she has every right(write 😉 to release fiction of this nature. Just as Random House has every right to pull the book. Now, just because I believe Random House has the right to pull this book from their shelves and not go through with the publishing, I also believe that they handled this poorly. I’m thinking someone over at Random House should have seen this coming and if they knew of the sensitive nature of this type of writing and the possibility of negative feedback from enraged people, they should have early on not offered her this deal and the money. To go back on this deal after so much time has passed is in poor taste.

Erin made mention of the fact that many people would take some offense at a person outside of the Islamic culture writing about such a sensitive issue. For those unaware, there is a scripture somewhere in the Koran that prohibits the criticism of Muhammad.

From Wiki:

Criticism of Muhammad is often equated with blasphemy, which is punishable by death in some Muslim-majority or Islamic states. This is because the Muslim belief is that Muhammad is the messenger of God himself, and that his actions were willed by God.[citation needed]Many Muslims believe that to reject and criticise Muhammad is to reject and criticise God.[citation needed]

The most notorious recent case of a critic condemned to death is that of Salman Rushdie, who wrote a novel (The Satanic Verses), satirizing Muhammad as a cynical schemer and his wives as prostitutes. In 1989 Rushdie was condemned to death in a fatwa issued by Iran’s theocratic leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rushdie had to go into hiding for years.

The only excerpt from the book floating around on the blogosphere is as follows:

“the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion’s sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life.”

I guess what is considered offensive or sacrilegious is up to an individuals interpretation of what constitutes criticism or blasphemy. While I understand that there are certain types of issues and subject matters that are sensitive and if they are handled in the wrong way, they may incite anger, frustration, and in extreme cases hatred and/or violence, I believe in free speech and that people should be allowed to express themselves in what ever way they choose. I’m prepared to accept that with this my own beliefs and values may be questioned, and/or ridiculed.

It is why I’ve posted the cartoon up above. I find it to be in poor taste, this is true, but I believe in the right to post such a thing.

Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2008 at 7:30 pm