Friday, August 27, 2010

Nudity and Censorship

The Golden Mean
I found an interesting article on Yahoo! Canada regarding a particular book being banned in Western Canada, specifically The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon. While I normally expect books to be banned based on actual content within the text, this book was banned not for the content of the book, but for the photograph on the cover. Now, the cover I show here is the U.S. cover, in which the boy on the horse is wearing a loin cloth of sorts. On the Canadian cover, which you can take a peek at here, the boy is wearing nothing but his birthday suit while plastering himself across the horse's body. The banning itself is only on Western Canadian ferries,which are owned by the government of the province British Columbia. So this means the books are simply not stocked in the gift shops. Technically speaking, I'm sure LOTS of other books are not stocked in these gift shops, too, but this one got special attention because of the prestige the book has garnered. "Lyon's fictional account of Aristotle as tutor to Alexander the Great won Canada's prestigious 2009 Rogers Writers' Trust first prize, and was a finalist in Canada's two other largest literary awards, the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award."
My personal opinion on this incident? I'm a bit torn as to which "side" to pick. On one side, I really don't care for book banning, period. But on the other side, I remember working in a bookstore, and the hoops we would have to jump through to make every customer happy. My guess is that someone found the book in one of those gift shops and complained, and the complaint spiraled out of control. Book covers that could be classified as "soft porn" were not an uncommon occurrence in the bookstore. If there was only one or two copies, we generally did not worry about it, since it would only be spined anyways, and the average customer's gaze would pass right over it. If a less-than-appealing book cover was supposed to be featured somewhere prominent within the store, we generally tried to put it in the least prominent location and replace it as soon as something else came up that could be classified as "more important." With some genres, such as romance, sexuality, or even adult manga, we would have to "police" the areas on busy days for underage teens. And yes, I have even had to card a few to get them away from the "adult" books - not my favorite part of the job.
I also have to wonder what the publishers were thinking with putting nudity on the cover - they had to have known that it would reduce the selling potential of the book, since obviously people do still judge a book by its cover. But the topic of how book covers are designed is a whole other can of worms that I'll save for another time.

Where do you stand on this particular case of book banning?


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