Banned Books #48- Brave New World

Welcome to the 48th edition of Banned Books. That’s right, today marks the 4th year anniversary of this feature. Awoohoo!

Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
First published: 1932
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: First of all, I’m so, so surprised that this book was only put on the ALA Banned & Challenged Books List in 2010! Not because I believe it should be banned or challenged, not at all. But Brave New World is counted as quite the classic and is one of the oldest books we’ve read and reviewed, being published in 1932 so I’m wondering if there were so many issues with it, why wasn’t it put on the list earlier? Food for thought. Anyway, I’ve already mentioned that I love trying to figure out the reasons why a book might be problematic (for some) before looking at the reasons and I’m always, ALWAYS surprised by the reasons they end up listing. For example, in Brave New World, they worship Henry Ford (founder of the Ford car company) as their God and in one particular scene at the end, suggest that the people who worshipped Jesus/God in the past were delusional. Aha, I thought! One of the reasons for this book being challenged is that it is anti-religion! Nope. That’s not a reason.

Instead, as with many of the books we’ve looked at so far, the reasons just make me laugh. Even thinking about back in the thirties, I’m struggling to figure out how this story could have been insensitive or offend anyone with the language. Unless they’re considering the whole growing embryos in bottles thing? Or deliberately depriving said embryos of certain vital materials i.e. oxygen to make them a lower class of people? Which of course makes for horrendous reading but at the end of the day, it is just a story and if you’re particularly sensitive to that sort of thing, you just put the book down, right?

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that it wasn’t banned earlier as well. I’ve known about it forever, even though I hadn’t read it earlier.  It was always one that I had known as a controversial read. Some of the reasons do make me roll my eyes. However, I can see that this book would make people uncomfortable. I certainly felt that way with this book.

How about now?

BETH: It’s quite frightening to think that nowadays we live in such a scientifically advanced age that things like this could be possible. Aldous Huxley has chosen a controversial and insightful topic to base his novel around and the culture and world he describes is horrifying of course! Yet when you mention reasons as racism or being sexually explicit as reasons for taking it out of people’s hands, I just don’t get it. The lower classes in Brave New World are treated disgustingly and this made for quite an uncomfortable reading experience at times but I think the author is deliberately trying to push our buttons and realise what living in a world like this could be like. And with the sexual explicitness? I roll my eyes. Our female lead removes her underwear by unzipping it. Saucy! Also, the people living in this world have quite open sexual relationships with a number of partners. Okay. BUT there is no graphic mention of sexual acts at all (which counts as sexually explicit in my opinion). So just by mentioning the word “sex,” it’s too graphic? Please!

CHRISSI: I think there’s much more explicit content out there. I think Aldous Huxley was totally pushing the boundaries, especially the time in which he wrote this book. As I mentioned before, this book made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps because, as Beth mentioned, things like this could potentially happen now. That scares me.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Brave New World is a re-read for me and I seem to get something different out of it every time I read it. The part with the embryos and the way they are modified depending on the social class they are in is horrible and I’m always moved when I read it. This time around, I did find some parts a bit slower and hard to digest but generally, this is a fascinating classic that I think everyone should be exposed to at some point in their lives.

CHRISSI: I feel like I recommended this book because it was a book I ‘had’ to read rather than wanted to read. I felt like it was a hard, heavy-going read that didn’t grip me. I just couldn’t get excited by it. I hate not liking a classic like this but it didn’t work for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

 

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The Great Gatsby

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How did I get it?:
I downloaded it free for my Kindle.

Synopsis:

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read The Great Gatsby for some time now, so I’m glad I was inspired to read it recently. It’s not a long read, or hard to read so it was perfect to slot in between reads! I thought it was an enjoyable enough read, but I didn’t feel blown away by it. I think it’s because it was so short, I didn’t really have time to get invested in the story like I enjoy doing. Others feel like it’s the perfect length, so don’t feel put off by me not feeling like it was long enough!

I thought the narrator of the story, Nick Carraway was an intriguing narrator. He comes into contact with Gatbsy as he is his neighbour and is invited to one of Gatsby’s social gatherings. It doesn’t take long for everything to kick off.

Although this is a short read, it is full of depth and interesting insights into the human condition. I thought F.Scott Fitzgerald’s writing was beautiful and truly believe that this is a classic well worth checking out.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

The Children Of The New Forest- Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit

Children-of-the-New-Forest

How did I get it?:
I downloaded it free on my Kindle.

Synopsis:

Cavalier and Roundhead battle it out in the turbulent setting of the English Civil war and provide the background for this classic tale of four orphans as they face adversity, survival in the forest, reconciliation and eventual forgiveness.

This is the first enduring historical novel for children, which conjures up as much magic today as it did on first publication. The freedom from adult constraint allied with the necessary disciplines to survive in a hostile world make for a gripping read.

Thoughts:

I can’t believe this is the 8th book in our kid-lit challenge. You can read the previous reviews HERE. This was one of my picks, because I heard so much about it and never read it as a child. Without meaning to sound rude, I can see why I didn’t read it as a child. This book is recommended to be read from the age of 9-adult. I don’t particularly think it was an exciting read.

I think the problem with reading books like this now, is that they are incredibly dated. The style they are written in uses quite advanced language and in some cases, language that we don’t really use that much anymore.

The Children of The New Forest’s plot is not complex, which is good. I think children nowadays do tend to like a more exciting plot, but maybe this book would intrigue a child or adult that’s interested in the New Forest. The story is set in 1647. The Arnwood house, the inheritance of Edward Beverley is burnt down during the Civil War. Edward and his siblings have to make their own way in the forest. They are guided by the kind Jacob Armitage. Edward and his siblings have to learn how to fend for themselves. But as they all grow older, Edward and his family begin to be torn apart by politics and the Civil War.

The Children of The New Forest wasn’t really a book I enjoyed. I can see its appeal to some readers, but it wasn’t exciting enough to grasp my attention and really want to recommend it highly.

Check out Bibliobeth’s fabulous review on her blog HERE to see if she felt differently.

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (September):
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Stig Of The Dump- Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit

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How did I get it?:
I downloaded it on my kindle specifically for this challenge!

Synopsis:

Stig of the Dump by Clive King is 50 years old and the story of Barney and his best friend, cave-man Stig, is as fresh today as it was when first published.

‘Stig’s nice. He’s my friend’

Nobody believes Barney when he says he’s discovered a boy living wild in the dump. But for Barney, Stif is totally real. They become great friends, learn each other’s ways and embark on a series of exciting adventures.

Thoughts:

This is the fourth book in my sister and I’s kid-lit challenge, taking on classics we remember reading as children. Stig Of The Dump was my choice. I remember reading this book when I was a lot younger. I think I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. Even then I was an avid reader. (Thanks Mum for encouraging me to read!) It’s such a charming book full of adventures. I absolutely love the relationship between Barney and Stig. Stig is so endearing. I do think that Stig Of The Dump is perhaps a bit too dated for our modern day child, but I think they should still be encouraged to read it. It’s imaginative and the written text is just beautiful. I love the simple pen and ink illustrations too.

I haven’t seen the film of Stig Of The Dump, I’m interested to see how it translates to the screen.

Check out Beth’s fab review of Stig Of The Dump here

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kit-Lit Challenge: (May)
Heidi – Johanna Spyri

Lysistrata- Back To The Classics 2013

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This is the third book I have read in the Back To The Classics challenge 2013. You can read more about the challenge HERE. Check out my review of the 19th Century Classic HERE and the 20th Century Classic HERE.

For the Pre-18th or 17th Century Challenge I picked Lysistrata as I’ve heard a lot about it but never read it.

Synopsis:

Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata” is one of the great comedies from classical antiquity. Central to the work is the vow by the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands until they end the brutal war between Athens and Sparta. A hilarious and decisively anti-war comedic drama, “Lysistrata” stands as one of the great works from the classical age of drama.

Thoughts:

As mentioned, I’d heard about this book before I read it. It’s definitely way, way, before its time. The story involves a decision that Greek women make, to withhold sex from their lovers until the men write a peace treaty and put an end to the wars. It’s a short, easy read. I was surprised at how funny it was. It seems that the Greek can do comedy just as well as tragedy. Despite the play veering more towards the comedy, there were serious issues tackled by Aristophanes such as War and Power. Lysistrata as a main character is interesting and the other characters are wonderfully witty. It is incredibly crude so don’t be surprised by that! It’s not something that I’d read again but I enjoyed it for what it was!

The Phantom Tollbooth- Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit

Phantomtollbooth

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Bibliobeth

Synopsis:

When Milo finds an enormous package in his bedroom, he’s delighted to have something to relieve his boredom with school. And when he opens it to find – as the label states – One Genuine Turnpike Tollbooth, he gets right into his pedal car and sets off through the Tollbooth and away on a magical journey!

Milo’s extraordinary voyage takes him into such places as the Land of Expectation, the Doldrums, the Mountains of Ignorance and the Castle in the Air. He meets the weirdest and most unexpected characters (such as Tock, the watchdog, the Gelatinous Giant, and the Threadbare Excuse, who mumbles the same thing over and over again), and, once home, can hardly wait to try out the Tollbooth again. But will it be still there when he gets back from school?

Thoughts:

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about this book before reading it. It was one of Beth’s choices. I’m so glad she picked it though because I ended up reading a very witty, sweet, action-packed piece of children’s literature which has something in it for adults too.

I think this book isn’t for everyone. It could be portrayed as preachy and forcing philosophy onto the reader. However, I think many readers will find it fun. It’s full of adventures to strange and imaginative places. The characters are unusual. It is almost like an Alice in Wonderland for a more modern generation. I think it could be enjoyed by boys and girls alike and children and adults too.

I just loved this statement:
You must never feel badly about making mistakes..as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons then you do for being right for the wrong reasons.

Response to Beth’s review:

You can read Beth’s great review HERE.

It’s interesting that we both found some statements that we really loved! I’m glad we both liked this book, unlike our February read.

Next up for the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (April):
Stig of The Dump- Clive King

The Water Babies- Beth and Chrissi do kid-lit challenge

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How did I get it?:
Downloaded free on my Kindle

Synopsis:

The story follows Tom in his land-life as a climbing boy for a chimney-sweep and in his after-life as a water-baby, where he gains redemption from selfishness as well as from drudgery. On to his fantasy Kingsley grafts a series of digressions and comic asides, through which he comments on a range of contemporary issues.

Thoughts:

This is the second book in my sister and I’s kid-lit challenge. I remember watching the film of The Water Babies quite frequently in my childhood, but I could never remember reading the book. So when we decided to complete this challenge, The Water Babies was a given in our choices for the year.

The Water Babies is quite long considering it is a children’s book. I found the writing quite heavy and far too long winded for a piece of children’s literature. Whilst reading it I found myself preferring the film which doesn’t happen a lot for me. I’m usually all about the books!

The Water Babies is a fairy tale about a young chimney sweep, Tom, who drowns in a river and becomes a Water Baby. Tom goes on a spiritual journey to become a better person. It was such a sweet idea and could’ve really worked for me but I ended up being bored of the constant side-tracking and rambling that often happened. So if I, an adult, got bored of it then surely children would to?

So overall, I don’t think I would recommend this for a child. I think there are much more suitable books out there and although this book is considered a classic, it really fell short for me. Perhaps Bibiliobeth will feel differently to me? Check out her review HERE

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do kid-lit challenge (March):
The Phantom Tollbooth- Norton Juster