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Footnotes 2017-2018 > Sunday Conversation Topic 6/24

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message 1: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2112 comments Have you ever read a book that offends you, attacks something close and personal to you, or misrepresents a group or a set of beliefs that you belong to? How do you handle this situations? What if the book is enjoyable despite these full frontal or even subtle attacks? How do you feel when you are offended or feel attacked by a book, but other, friends and maybe even family love the book?

message 2: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 2404 comments The one that instantly comes to mind is "Hunger Games". I had an extremely difficult time with the entire premise of children killing children for sport and spectacle. I did not like it at all - except for the fact that I think Suzanne Collins is a gifted writer. It was certainly exciting and well-plotted. People love this book and I am so out of the loop, I guess. Seriously - murder for entertainment?

message 3: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2112 comments Ellen, I don't remember when you became a member, but one of my first posts asked the question are we as the reader, being entertained by the Hunger Games, any different than the citizens of the capital.

message 4: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 7178 comments The one I can think of quickly is Flowers in the Attic and that whole series. I think I read the first and second and decided they were basically trash. I was surprised to see it on the America Reads list.

Another one which I did rate pretty highly and others love is The Help. I find the whole "white woman to the rescue", offensive. I know others do not see it that way, so I am hesitant to say anything about it.

message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2112 comments Booknblues, don't be hesitant. You make a really good point and that is a very interesting conversation and a perspective I hadn't considered.

message 6: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) I don't hesitate to say what I think, but I do explain why I think that way, and I try really hard to criticize the book, not the people who like the book.

I've only seldom been called out, and both times it was by the author or true fans. I just delete their comments from my reviews and carry on.

Unfortunately, I don't have anyone irl to talk books with, but I imagine I'd discuss the merits & flaws of the book itself until the conversation got heated, and then 'agree to disagree' and move on, just as in any discussion.

message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2112 comments Cheryl, is there a book that has offended you in a portrayal or description or just overall story? Does it make it hard to finish the book? Does it upset you when the book is highly acclaimed?

message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 2404 comments Jason wrote: "Ellen, I don't remember when you became a member, but one of my first posts asked the question are we as the reader, being entertained by the Hunger Games, any different than the citizens of the ca..."
(I've been a member for almost all of the 10 years PBT has been in existence.)
I don't recall your post about the 'Hunger Games" but I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Jason wrote: "Ellen, I don't remember when you became a member, but one of my first posts asked the question are we as the reader, being entertained by the Hunger Games, any different than the citizens of the ca..."

Jason this is a very good point that you make. I really liked the Hunger Games. I loved the author's writing and in the end I liked how good prevailed over evil. BUT I do agree with you in that being entertained by the demise of children over sport is a thought to be considered. I did not like this aspect of the story but I choose to look at the other aspects that were good. Such as Katniss taking her sister's place, Peta and Katniss working together. If the author had not included the teamwork that she did, the deep loyalty that prevailed in the entire series I would have struggled with it. But, we still come back to children being killed for sport because of a sickness that prevailed in the capital. Its a good conversation to have.

message 10: by LibraryCin (last edited Jun 24, 2018 11:53AM) (new)

LibraryCin | 9311 comments Jason wrote: "Ellen, I don't remember when you became a member, but one of my first posts asked the question are we as the reader, being entertained by the Hunger Games, any different than the citizens of the ca..."

I like to think that if it was really happening, I would be horrified! However, knowing that it was fiction, I found it incredibly exciting/entertaining.

ETA: There are lots of dark topics that many of us "enjoy" reading about. I suppose it gets the adrenaline going?

message 11: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte | 1689 comments Booknblues I 100% agree with you about Flowers in the Attic. All my friends thought it was the best book ever and I kept wondering what was wrong with me for disagreeing with them. I could think of a ton of other books that I would rather see in it's place on the Greatest Reads list.

Jason pointed out that a book that I read for the Decathlon fit this discussion. Florida is Lauren Groff short stories that have some sort of tie about FL and in several, she just got it wrong. I even looked her up to find out what made her think that she was knowledgeable enough to right about my home state. LOL. Turns out she has lived in FL for the last years, near where I went to Univ., but was raised in the North. There was one short story in her book that got things right but there were others that just got it wrong. Even now, while I write this, I'm feeling bit frustrated by her lack of understanding of the state. It kind of turned me off to her as an author and I'm not sure I'll read anything else she has written. It also makes me want to find a good "Florida" book that I can tell you guys... this... this is FL... this is how it should be represented.

message 12: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9723 comments I think there has been a lot spoken about with abuse in books. Abuse of women of children. I think that can often be subjective as with the portrayal of minorities and oppressed groups. I think it’s been rare that I’ve been personally offended. I do recall once in awhile feeling like a book mis-portrays Jews or Jewish women, and that can make me upset. I have also felt that way about an inaccurate portrayal of mental illness. I tend not to get too hyped about that kind of stuff. I also tend not to feel like I need to educate others when they are wrong. I probably write something in my review, but I’m not one to try to change peoples minds if they do not feel open. I can understand how it can get your blood boiling though. We live in such a divisive world these days. I often feel like books are the one thing that can get us to see each other’s worlds. That can connect us and see what links us, rather than divides us. I probably don’t engage that much when I feel I necessarily attacked or offended. But what did you weigh when the reverse happens and something opens up.

Tessa (FutureAuthor23) | 229 comments LibraryCin wrote: "I like to think that if it was really happening, I would be horrified! However, knowing that it was fiction, I found it incredibly exciting/entertaining..."

I agree 100% with this statement. In regards to all fiction books. I mean absolutely no offense to anyone here but I just have never been able to wrap my brain around how something would offend someone in a STORY. I mean if it was a true story, then yes I could understand that. But then I'm also always flabbergasted when someone says they didn't enjoy a book because they hated the characters or none of the characters were likable. It's a fiction story. Not your friends or relatives we're talking about. I just don't get it. Call me weird I guess.

message 14: by Karin (last edited Jun 24, 2018 03:29PM) (new)

Karin | 7574 comments Yes, I have come across things I have found offensive things in books and also certain books are offensive.

But there are also very upsetting things that I don't think are offensive because there is a point to them. So, with The Hunger Games, the first time I read it, I wasn't offended by the story but I was horrified by it. I kept thinking I should ditch it, but then I wanted to know what happened.

But if a book truly offends me I usually discard it because I have no desire to read what that person is writing. Most of the time I can find someone less offensive to make some of the same arguments or statements.

There have even been a few times people who mostly agree with me are offensive, and I won't read their books, either.

message 15: by Idit (last edited Jun 24, 2018 06:13PM) (new)

Idit | 1028 comments books can have really disturbing things and I wouldn't mind - because its something that's wonderful about art, it can open taboo topics and explore them
but ... when people use things for cheap thrills, or to manipulate me as a reader - I find that really offensive.

for example - I can accept even a rape in a book if there's a good reason for it to be there, but if there are bullying jokes that just show that the author is trying to entertain us - I would hate it

Bill Bryson's childhood memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid started hilarious and I thought I would love it, but after few chapter he has a side character who is a girl that hangs around and the way he talks about her is so offensive to me - he was describing how they treated her in his childhood (badly) but there's no remorse, just reminiscing.. it disgusted me and I left the book straight after. and it was just an unimportant side character... but I couldn't stand him after that.

another book I felt upset about was Needful Things. It might be a spoiler... so stop here if you don't like spoilers...
... one of the main characters was a child, and he ended up killing himself. I felt it was unnecessary and was a bit horrified by a kid suicide in a book that is just entertainment (horror book - not literature into the suffering of children, where I would have accepted such act of course). It didn't help that I read it not long after someone dear to me did the same, so I was more sensitive to it. but thus ended my relationship with Stephen King's novels.

message 16: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 7065 comments Fascinating discussion topic. Oddly, I am really hard pressed to think of a work of fiction that offended me though I can absolutely imagine it. It really takes a lot to offend me in literature. I'm much more offended by the myriad of posts on Facebook that dehumanize people with whom the poster disagrees. It seems to me that literature, even when I might not agree with the political perspectives espoused, often looks at multiple angles and raises interesting moral conundrums. Rarely are the viewpoints simplistic. If something makes me think, I find it hard to be simultaneously offended.

I do like Idit's point about art - - I think art is a great way to explore topics that otherwise might be super hard to address. However, there is a hard to define line between purposeful and meaningful use and gratuitous use just to shock. I don't want to be manipulated.

message 17: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3743 comments I can't say that I've been offended by a book necessarily, but disturbed for sure.

I feel like even when characters are thinly drawn or not complicated that style is serving a purpose. For example, Richard Laymon and his female characters come to mind. Always young, beautiful, sexy and vulnerable. They are not complicated, but certainly those type of women exist in real life and that serves the purpose for pulpy horror fiction.

Likewise, I always assume that there is a version of every person / scenario you can think of yourself. So it's hard for me to say with confidence a character is misrepresented because there could easily be a version of that person somewhere, especially if it was imagined. Kinda like fetishes... if you can imagine it, it is likely real and happening somewhere.

As for violence, it certainly doesn't make me feel good, but it also a real part of life and the human experience. When it is a cheap entertainment or shock tactic, I am not offended, but depending on the execution could lose interest. If I don't find something shocking to be purposeful, I usually assume that I am not the intended audience and maybe someone else would "get it."

I haven't read anything that perpetuated racism, bigotry, or misogyny without purpose (that I can think of off the top of my head), but I think that would likely offend me. Like some propaganda which supports hateful thinking... but there is a reason that is not falling into my scope since I tend to gravitate to like-minded readers / publications.

message 18: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2112 comments Okay. To clarify a few things.

I was not offended by Hunger Games, I just feel it was written and presented in a way that makes you pick aides in the game and to root for your favorite combatants. Though you don't want any to die, you do hope katnis and her allies prevail. To me that is similar to the citizens of the capital. I find it ironic is all.

In regards to being offended, in 1Q84, A thinly bailed attack is made at Jehovah's Witnesses, which I am. They are classified as a cult, their beliefs are misrepresented and falsified. I felt as though I was was being attacked for my beliefs and found it very offensive. I understand if you disagree with JW beliefs but I do not appreciate being lied about and misrepresented. I also found this to be mostly pointless to the story yet the author kept coming back to these attacks. Then the idea this is a world best seller and many are influenced by this work of fiction. I found it frustrating and offensive. I did finish the book and though magical realism is not my forte, I mostly enjoyed the story.

This is the only time I have been offended by a book and I have read non plus things about JW before, but this is the first time I felt attacked.

message 19: by Meli (last edited Jun 25, 2018 01:52PM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3743 comments That example makes sense, Jason.

I haven't personally read anything that was representing me or my beliefs / race / ect. in a false way, that I didn't think could realistically apply to someone in some circumstance even if it didn't represent it correctly based on my personal experience. (yet)

message 20: by Idit (new)

Idit | 1028 comments I understand what you mean Jason
if a book will belittle or misrepresent something that is dear to me, I would be hurt as well

I read once a book where the author (whom I loved before) was describing political views, and then mocked them (my views). But his description of those views was so incorrect. so he was mocking some fantasy of his. But it made me not like him as much as I did reading his first book

When I read old books though, I accept them not being feminist or even being a little bit racist* - because they are part of their time.

* a little bit racist meaning a description here and there that is racist. Not the whole book hating of jews/blacks/etc

message 21: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9723 comments It’s a brave conversation- and one to be respected, Jason.

message 22: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3743 comments Re-reading my comment and it sounds like I am saying "surely there is someone somewhere who represents what you think is a misrepresentation of yourself!" Or, it could be misinterpreted to say that...

What I meant to say is historically when I read things that seem to misrepresent people, I tend to place the blame on myself for not understanding that perspective and act under the assumption that must represent someone. I haven't analyzed that reaction much... And, I haven't personally recognized a misrepresentation of something I identify with as a person that was overt enough to cause me to be personally offended. And now I am kinda wondering if my books choices are acting as an echo chamber of my own belief system, or if I am just unaffected...

Does that make sense? *^_^*

message 23: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2112 comments Meli, I get what you are saying....i think.

Human nature can be so extreme that reading of atrocities or vile things is not offensive because we know they have existed or are in the realm of possibilities. Examples are slavery, holocaust, arpathied, genocides like in Rawanda. Though these things are horrible, we are not necessarily offended by them. Even the ideas supporting these atrocities. Such as I read Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. This book would be much more offensive to a Jewish personal than to me because he attacks Jew personally. My sensibilities were offended, but not me.

Again, I have only been personally offended niece ever in a book and it was where I felt attacked personally and the feeling of that person having am audience and me not having a voice, or as large as a voice, heightens that insecurity and offensiveness.

Now my sensibilities have been offended, while reading but this is more of a shock factor and empathy towards atrocities around the world and to people individually. The book I just finished A River In Darkness, the story on ones man life and escape from North Korea affected me, garnered empathy, and in a way offended me, but not personally.

message 24: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2797 comments I very rarely feel offended by a novel, even where the subject matter is deeply offensive or distasteful. It’s just a book and I’ll put it down if I don’t like it.

But the better the writing, the more likely I am to appreciate the author’s bravery in tackling problem topics. There are few subjects that are more challenging than ‘Lolita’ for instance, but Nabokov displays the horror of its topic so very cleverly. I’ve also read many fabulous books featuring the Holocaust, racism, sexism, homophobia and other subjects where I find the views of some people IRL to be deeply offensive (Milo Yiannopoulos, Nigel Farage et al, take a bow and exit right with all your like-minded friends 😡).

Where I’ve found I struggle, though, is where I come across a book with a rape scene (or other horrific violence) where the author seems to be suggesting that the victim asked for it or - even worse - gets pleasure from it. There’s nothing wrong with writing about the topic of rape (it’s part of society’s woeful reality) and I’m not begging for novels to conform to some variety of political correctness. It’s a time-honoured role of literature to challenge our preconceptions. If a character has that attitude, I can just dislike the character but still appreciate the book (Lolita again). If it’s just a fact of the plot, I can cope as long as it isn’t gratuitous. But portraying rape (whether of women or men) in a way that judges or belittles the victim or suggests that such acts are ok is beyond the pale for me.

message 25: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3743 comments I am usually OK with the controversial viewpoints you describe, KateNZ, as long as it is the viewpoint of a character to serve a juxtaposition or other purpose. I don't think having a despicable character with a disturbing or problematic worldview is a representation of the author necessarily, but I could see how at times it could be insightful into their own perspective.

I think it is most problematic when there isn't the juxtaposing "good" character or balance for the "bad" characters.

message 26: by Karin (last edited Jun 30, 2018 01:07PM) (new)

Karin | 7574 comments I don't mind a difference of opinion or controversial issues, but I get offended with lashing out rudeness against the views of others.

This type of offensiveness in books, when it rears its ugly head, is more often in nonfiction than fiction. Thankfully, not too often

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