Tuesday, October 2, 2007

We Sell 'Banned Books'
(but only after the ban is over)
(and only if it's politically correct to do so)

Banned Book Week is the book industry's annual celebration of their own self-satisfaction and self-importance. Bookstores everywhere (including us) hang signs in their windows and around their stores boasting that THEY. SELL. BANNED. BOOKS. They get a write up in the local paper, place little white cards around their store and (inevitably) blog about it, and for what? To make themselves feel progressive and important. But of all the books that they are so 'bravely' selling, how many have been considered 'dangerous' in the past ten years? How many have been banned in a marginally enlightened society in the past twenty years? None. Ooh...you sell Uncle Tom's Cabin and Huck Finn. How cutting edge! That really sticks it to The Man. Are you serious? I bet you Bill O'Reilly wouldn't even say anything bad about freakin' Huck Finn. But how many copies of the Anarchist's Cookbook does your store have on hand? Or Mein Kampf? Or the Tin Tin in the Congo book featuring offensive racial caricatures that Little, Brown recently decided against publishing? There are import editions available from a variety of distributors. If you're truly against censorship -- and not just the antiquated/outdated examples of censorship -- shouldn't you be carrying such a book? I'm not suggesting that bookstores start a 'Hate' section, but if you want to crow about your unadulterated selections, you'd better not be playing the behind-the-scenes censor with your own stock. To do so is hypocritical. Free speech is the right of everyone. Providing unencumbered access to the literary works created under the auspices of free speech (all of 'em -- not just the ones we agree with or approve of) is our business. Bookstores shouldn't have to rally around themselves once a year to proclaim that they hate censorship and the banning of books. Such a concept should be an integral part of every book store, library and reading room. It should go without saying, really.