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Censorship: American Psycho, Canadian Psychos

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God so loved the world he sent his only Son…instead of a committee.

For a couple of years I sat on a committee for Freedom of Expression representing editors and publishers.

Here’s what I learned:

Many people are staunch defenders of free expression as long as they agree with the views expressed.

I say I “sat” on the committee because my impression was that nothing would ever get done. The one time I chaired the committee, I was criticized for being too controversial.

Flash forward: I was no longer on the committee and was now working for Cannon Book Distributors. Brett Easton Ellis‘s American Psycho had been out for a short time and I was selling it across Canada. I met a former employer with whom I’d locked horns before in a Toronto street. He looked smug; he had no other facial expression, actually. He thought he had me.

“Now how do you feel about having to sell American Psycho?” (He didn’t say “ha-HA!” but the unspoken hung in the air between us.)

“Great,” I said. “I let grown-ups decide what they read. Otherwise, I’d be treating them like children.”

“You’re a civil libertarian, then?” he asked. He asked the question the same way you might ask an acquaintance how often he buggered syphilitic goats.


He shook his head. No hope for me.

Here’s what censors don’t seem to get: Either you read a book you found offensive and decided for yourself it wasn’t for you (in which case everyone else should have that same privilege) or you didn’t read it,  in which case you shouldn’t condemn it. I’ve already got two parents. I really don’t need more authority figures telling me what not to read.

I love a list of censored books.

Almost invariably, that’s where to find great, or at least interesting, books.

Filed under: banning books, censors, , , ,

Word on the Street Toronto

The Word on the Street

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I spent a good chunk of yesterday at Toronto’s Word of the Street books and magazine fair. The event is huge. I remembered it when it was a much smaller festival. Now they take over all of Queen’s Park and close the streets. I met some old friends and made some new ones. Word on the Street takes place across Canada in various cities. If you can go, I recommend it. 

I know I loaded you up with links last week. As a result of my day trip to Word on the Street, here are just a few more: 

The Horror Writers Association is the only organization dedicated to the support of authors of dark literature. Check it out at www.horror.org

Details about Bloody Words, the Canadian Mystery Conference, can be found at www.bloodywords.com

For information on the Crime Writers of Canada, go to www.crimewriterscanada.com. Members include authors, publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers and literary agents as well as developing writers. 

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is a non-profit organization supported by Canadian Journalists and advocates of free expression. They defend the rights of journalists around the world. www.cjfe.org 

PEN Canada also advocates for writers in prison, writers in exile and works to promote freedom of expression. www.pencanada.ca 


Filed under: banning books, Books, Media, publishing, writing tips, , , , , ,

Christopher Hitchens on Free Speech

Filed under: banning books, Writers

The Censor’s Dilemma

Censorship of books in Cuba is an interesting phenomenon. When a book is banned, it’s pushed into the black market and the underground economy scoops it up for the populace. Thankfully.

Whenever a book or a film is decried by would-be censors, or actual censors, the object of their derision is made all the more desireable in the minds of many. I have no doubt JK Rowling would have been a success in any case. However, when numerous religious groups tried to have it banned, they unwittingly contributed to the Harry Potter phenomenon.

If your book is made into a movie, your sales will soar. If you can get somebody to declaim it as an offense to decency or whatever their pet cause happens to be, then you’ll get more media promotion than you could possibly pay for.

When I was a kid a local Baptist church held a rally, proud they were going to burn evil Metal records. They identified the music as a threat to the children. The trouble was, mostly the kids didn’t have any of the offensive records (or had them stashed at a friend’s house.) Their solution was to go out and buy a bunch of AC/DC so they could contribute to the liberating bonfire. Bloody brilliant. (A recent study revealed teens who listen to heavy metal are actually more serene and intelligent as a group.)

To the censors: if you don’t want anybody to read or listen to something you don’t like, ssssshhhhhhh. Don’t read it. Don’t talk about it and don’t tell me what to do with my brain. The moment you start railing against it, I’m putting on my coat to head to Chapters. Look at any list of banned books and you’ll find a lot of great literature there.

Rock on.

Filed under: banning books, Rant, ,

The Weak Censor Books (plus a travel advisory)

Somebody told me today that when you enter Cuba customs officials take  a hard look at the books you plan to read on the beach. If they don’t like your reading choices, they confiscate.

Anything that could be construed as promoting utopian themes, dystopian themes or revolution is taken from you. They’re really serious about wanting the last revolution they had to really be the last revolution they ever have. 1984, Brave New World, and  Fahrenheit 451 are on the list among many many others. I wonder if Catcher in the Rye is on the list? That’s teenage rebellion, but still. Rebel without a Cause, The Princess Bride, a whole whack of Shakespeare–the mind boggles. Where would it stop? Maybe Dickens is okay, and Crime and Punishment since that arose from another communist regime. I’m guessing Harlequin romances are huge there, and generally left behind by tourists sick of their beach reading.*

On the one hand, I’m appalled at any form of censorship of free speech. On the other hand, I have to give Castro a bit of quirky respect since he obviously thinks books are important, and ideas expressed in fiction can be dangerous. In the West, where in many ways the written word seems to matter much less, it’s actually refreshing to see somebody get excited about what’s in a book.

Cuba’s government must be awfully fragile to be so queasy.

*Harlequin bad for you. Rot brain. Me know. Me work there one and half years…chicks hot though. Me digress. 

BONUS: Funny post about Sarah Palin and Going Rogue here.

Filed under: banning books, publishing, ,

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Winner of the North Street Book Prize, Reader's Favorite, the
Literary Titan Award, the Hollywood Book Festival, and the
New York Book Festival.


Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

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Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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