11.4.11

Book semi-rant

I recently read a book, The Borrower, that disturbed me. Not in a good way (as Drought did for several students I loaned my ARC to), but in that angry way that made me feel that some of my time had been wasted.

Why? Because I just didn't buy the premise. An English teacher friend said that fiction only works if you buy the premise, believe the world created. For example, Ethan Frome didn't work for me because the idea of suicide-by-toboggan just isn't credible. That small – but critical – part of the book ruined the rest of it for me. Anyway, I just couldn't believe Lucy's character. There were several reasons:
  • She firmly believes in the First Amendment. This is stated several times, and she argues that this might be because she isn't “really” a librarian, not having a MLS, which somehow means she's not covered by the Library Bill of Rights. Now, I'm not for censorship (I was raised by parents who, for better or worse, allowed me to read virtually anything I wanted – Jaws being a notable exception, one I'm still puzzled by over 30 years later). But working in a school you learn that you need to understand your community, and if a book's not appropriate, it's not appropriate. I wouldn't put a book like Lolita in a Lower School library, but if a parent wants their 4th grader to read that book, they're perfectly free to buy or borrow a copy elsewhere. And if a parent says that they don't want their child to read a specific book, I can ask why or discuss it, but I won't go behind their back. Lucy does, vis-a-vis Ian. All the time.
  • Her love of the First Amendment does not extend to the Second Amendment. This is something I've noticed elsewhere (Pastor Jones, are you listening?!). If the reason a book is off-limits to a child is because it doesn't fit with the family's religious leanings, who am I to say that their religion is wrong? Years ago, one of my students told me she wasn't allowed to read Harry Potter because of the magic elements. Could I help? I suggested she ask her mother what exactly the objections were – there are similar elements in the Narnia books, there are no magic 'recipes' for students to follow, and the themes of good v. evil and standing up for/with your friends were central to the plots. She talked to her mother and was allowed to read them. Had her mother not changed her mind, I would not have helped her circumvent her mother's wishes.

Those two elements, contrasted with her passivity in all other areas, just made her a completely unbelievable character.

This isn't just a rant, it's a question: can one character or event ruin a book for you, too? Or is it just me?

2 comments:

Aravis said...

Yes, characters and/or events can ruin a book for me. It's rare that I toss a book aside in disgust (and almost unheard of for me to do that while still reading it), but it has happened. What I hate is when this occurs while reading a series. My touch of OCD won't seem to let me stop reading the series even if it's driving me completely insane. House of Night series, anyone...?

camillofan said...

"Her love of the First Amendment does not extend to the Second Amendment." This wouldn't put me off a character, since I know personally that it's possible. :-)