Trashing the story

I threw away another book last week.

It happened on the interstate with hours of driving promising time to listen to my stash of audio books. I chose a humorous book. I pushed all the right buttons on the player, but the text pushed all the wrong buttons in me. Every other sentence the author slipped in a four-letter word or sexual innuendo. A couple of minutes of that and I turned it off and trashed it.

I didn’t bother with a letter to the publisher, the author, the bookstore or library demanding they not carry this author or this book anymore. I voted against the book with a flick of the wrist. Just as in December, the garbage truck hauled away the holiday comedy video with its visual and verbal sexual innuendos.

I feel quite free to censor and dispose of any media that I own and find offensive. I tear up, throw away and burn purchases I made of books, videos and CDs that ultimately did not meet my standards. Rented, borrowed or checked out items return unheard or unread after those decisive first moments.
I do not understand why people capable of writing a book or directing a movie lace the story line with cursing or descriptive passages that can only be classified as soft porn. Hotels and houses come with bedroom doors with locks for a reason. Books should too.

Humorists and other lecturers might take a lesson from the speaker I heard  express his emotions, saying, “Well, stone the crows and starve the lizards.” Through a Google search I discovered it is an Australian expression of surprise or indignation. Whatever its origin, for me it demonstrated the speaker’s intelligence and use of verbal skills.

Personally, I am ready for ratings for books similar to those we see for TV and movies: V-violence, L-language, S-sexual content, PG-parental guidance and so forth. Enough with the trial and error of discovering which authors lose my interest when they provide TMI (too much information).

Adult literature no longer just means the concepts exceed the innocence of childhood or are too complicated for them to follow. Now, it can also mean the author leaves the bedroom door open or she details too vividly how a fatal injury is inflicted.

I wish there had been a label when I borrowed an audio book aimed at teenagers thinking it would be safe to read audibly. Such a label would have advised me that this unfamiliar author repeatedly described today’s casual attitudes toward sex extend even to the mid-teens.

I know what to expect in the romance section. As I said in a recent conversation, “I don’t read romance novels. They irritate me with their predictability.” Romantic dinners are limited to spaghetti, steak and salad or a delightful omelet prepared with the odds and ends in the refrigerator. Thick, white (never black or red) Turkish bathrobes mysteriously appear at judicious moments and the bad guys are despicable in their taste and looks: as in one novel where the villain wore a suit from the rack at a national department store. Stone the crows, starve the lizards! How uncouth! Get thee to a tailor!

Content also dictates my magazine subscriptions. The weekly news magazine I enjoyed for many years lost my renewal the week all the news magazines covered the same story about some objectionable pictures used in advertising. My magazine published at least one of the pictures, the other magazines did not.

Several months ago I decided I will not renew my subscription to a magazine I have read avidly for decades. I doubt my reasons matter to management. I am pretty sure that the editor took my traditional viewpoint on sexual mores into consideration when they made their decision to expand their horizons. I will look elsewhere for similar information.

So yes, I practice censorship, but you will notice that I did not give you the names of any of the books, magazines or shows that offended me. I assume you are intelligent enough to make your own decisions. You do not need me to be your book guardian, anymore than I need the occasional, self-appointed guardian of my literary intake who forgets that I can read any book, at any time, without asking anyone’s permission.

Information is there. Be wise. Do not simply embrace all of it just because it is there. Ask “why” when someone says you must or must not. God gave you a brain … use it to make an intelligent decision. If all the only offering is trash or a bunch of foul language in the guise of entertainment, turn off the TV or the vid, walk out of the theater, close the book and go stone the crows and starve the lizards.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer for the News-Times. Email her at joanh@everybody.org)

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