Misunderstanding Banned Books: A Note from Larry Watson09/28/2012
One could, I suppose, feel flattered to have one’s book banned. After all, being banned puts one in very good company—Mark Twain, James Joyce, J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, and many other authors have had their books banned. Furthermore, book banners—or challengers or censors—seem to have a belief in literature’s power that most authors don’t share, even if we wish we could.
But I doubt that there’s any author who feels pleased in any way to have his or her book banned. For myself, on the occasions when I’ve learned that my novel Montana 1948 has been challenged, I’ve felt a range of emotions. Anger, certainly, that someone presumes to know what’s best for others to read. Sorrow, because those challenges are too often successful.
Perhaps, however, what I’ve felt more than anything is misunderstood. I’ve felt it for myself and for other authors. Of course we know that when our books go out into the world we can’t accompany them and explain them. And we know that not all readers will respond favorably to what we’ve done. But to have a reader believe that what we’ve done is with the intention to corrupt is truly dispiriting, and particularly so because it’s a belief completely at odds with the impulse behind most artistic production. We know we might fall short in our efforts to make something beautiful that will add to the store of human pleasure and understanding, yet that’s what we invariably hope to do.