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Monday, June 2, 2014

Mulling it over Monday

June! It's June! And the Houston weather has slipped back to its set point of high in the 90's low in the 70's. The summer endurance contest begins. Next time I will report a temp change will probably be, um, October.

Last night's Game of Throne episode! What can I say without spoiling it? Except that I screamed. I have not read this far in the books so... I knew something wouldn't go well, but not THAT. Didn't see THAT coming. (If you watched, discuss among yourselves. If you didn't, get back to me when you have.)

And my signing yesterday at Katy Budget Books with Sophie Jordan and CC Hunter was such fun. I love Sunday afternoon signings. Everyone's always relaxed and having a good time. Thanks to all who came out.

Mostly this morning I'm fretting over this whole reading trigger warning label thing that universities are threatening to place on books. We're not talking the basic movie/tv kind of warning like: adult language  and partial nudity. We're talking trigger warnings like racism or misogyny. As in a warning to students that what they're about to read might upset them.

So doesn't that change the entire reading experience? And isn't getting upset about the dark stuff part of the point? Shouldn't I be angry as hell at Tom Buchanan in Great Gatsby and not a watered down angry because I've been warned that my tender self might be hurt or shocked by that fact that he's a nasty misogynistic bastard? Isn't discomfort okay? Shouldn't my intellectual sensibilities be, um, challenged? Isn't this a first slide down the slippery slope toward making everything we read and see just one big bowl of mushy oatmeal?

Or is it the opposite? Will an advance trigger warning that, say, Shakepeare's Merchant of Venice contains uncomfortable and essentially unchallenged anti-Semitism enhance my reading experience? Or will it control it?

Where do we draw the line about these warnings? At what level of the human experience? The answer that keeps coming to mind is: all of it.

We are not always our best selves, we humans. Surprise, surprise! We hurt each other and destroy each other in so many ways that it defies the imagination, which is perhaps for the best. I spend enough time as a writer mining those awful possibilities that I'm clear on that. And anything my imagination conjures up is probably a poor substitute for what I will read in the morning news blasts. But I do not believe that I need an advance warning about that. I believe I already am fully aware.

Lots of people have been addressing this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/us/warning-the-literary-canon-could-make-students-squirm.html?_r=0

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/05/trigger-warnings-and-the-novelists-mind.html

Let me know what you think, dear reader



2 comments:

Hannah J said...

Hrm. Not sure how I feel about those trigger warnings, because if can see both sides of the argument. Some people may get offended at, say, racism, so maybe it is good to add a small warning. On the other hand, spoiler alert. Everything you said about watering down our literature. And what's more, the whole point of writers including such themes is to disturb us so much as to make us reconsider our actions. Therefore, if we're going effectively to advertise, "don't read this book, it's got bad, depressing stuff", aren't we defeating the purpose? So I think I am against them, after all. If you really were worried about a particular issue, I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find out how prevalent it was in a particular book using the internet. What features in the classics, at least, is no secret.

cwexy said...

Trigger warnings are very relevant if you are warning a victim of incest or assault that there might be incest or assault within the work. People who have triggers (that are the result of trauma, or life experiences that might cause mental or emotional injury) should certainly have a way to research such information, be it a trusted librarian or bookseller, or well read friend to assist them in choosing reading materials that won't trip their personal trigger.

HOWEVER - I'm against every book having a warning label. Can you imagine if say, To Kill a Mockingbird had been published with something like this on the label: "this book contains triggers related to incest, violence and racial/social injustice"? Would we even know about it today? Novels serve a vital function in shining a light on issues and problems of society. That light won't shine through trigger warnings.