Thursday, March 6, 2008

His Dark Materials and an informed public

Right, so I started off on a tangent from my last post about The Ruby in the Smoke, and just kept going, so although I intended to just ignore the whole controversy and take the high road, it seems my dander is still up. Here we go!

I loved His Dark Materials. I am a Christian. I was not offended - in fact, I admired the characters in the novels who were strong enough and sensible enough to recognize the difference between what was the right thing to do and what an organization that was abusing its power to keep the rest of the population under its strict control said was the right thing to do. I think the whole debate that broke when the movie came out is ridiculous. If you want to read it or watch it, do so. That goes for any book, film, tv show, etc. If you don't want your kids to read it or see it, I respect that, but do the world a favor and develop an informed opinion by actually reading it for yourself first. How else will you know what you think of the material? You can always stop if you find it inappropriate. You can prevent your children from reading it or watching it- that's your right as a parent. What you do not have the right to do is say that because you find something inappropriate, no child should have access to it. That takes away the rights of other parents and their children. We often hear in library land that if we removed everything that offended someone, there would be nothing left on the shelves, and it's quite true. Need an example? I hate Elmo. But I respect that others want to experience Elmo, so I haven't checked out all of the Elmo videos and destroyed them. I haven't complained to the administration. I choose not to watch Elmo myself, but I don't keep others from having the opportunity to do so. This is how a public library works.

Intellectual freedom aside, I would say that Pullman wasn't maligning religion in his books at all - he was condemning the kind of organization (and I personally think it could be religious, governmental, what have you) that keeps people in ignorance. "Don't read that, it could hurt you!" Of course, I'm just a crazy liberal librarian who doesn't believe in banning books, but it seems to me that standing up against something just because you got a chain email about it or there was a notice in the church bulletin, without having any personal knowledge, is dangerous. For one thing, where did the folks writing that get their information? How far along the chain would you have to go before you found someone who had actually read the material firsthand? It makes me think of the Middle Ages, where nobody could read the Bible except for the priests, and sometimes not even them . . . people just had to blindly follow whatever the priest said was in the scriptures, and I don't think I need to go into detail about how much corruption there was in those days because of it. That's the kind of thing the characters in His Dark Materials are fighting against - keeping people in the dark. And how do you get out of the dark? Personal knowledge. Read the book - unlike all of those unfortunate serfs, we have the option (and I might even add, the responsibility) of finding out for ourselves. Don't just take anyone's word for it.
Develop your own opinion.

End of rant. For now.


Cindy Mitchell said...

Hi Krystal: How much of your reading do you actually blog about? Do you leave off books you didn't like, because, although i haven't read every review, I haven't really seen one that says "This book sucks and no one should read it" yet. Just curious.

Krystel said...

Hi Cindy, thanks for the question! I try to blog everything I read, but there are a few exceptions - picture books generally don't make it to the blog, just because I read so many of those in a week doing programs at work. And I have a goldfish-like memory . . . As for leaving off the books that suck, no, I'm a firm believer in blogging the ones that suck and hopefully sparing someone else the pain and agony I experienced in reading them. Granted, there haven't been many books in which I have been unable to find any redeeming qualities at all, but there are several I really didn't like - most of them I've tagged with "Krystel's not favorites" - if I remembered to do it. Does that completely answer your question? ;-)

Cindy Mitchell said...

Thanks Krystel - It does. I like the new footnotes on "edgy" material. I am so tired of book reviews that make a book sound great, but don't give you all of the facts you need to buy or recommend a book for a particular audience.