The call to ban something — books, movies, art — has quieted down since its boiling point in the mid-1990s.
You still hear it locally and libraries are always a good target. But the fervor has gone. Perhaps the Republicans, who always led the charge, came to realize that if they banned too many things, they would soon lack for the bugaboos that are their bread and butter. If there is nothing left to complain about, what would be their purpose in life?
Outrage is the conservative raison d’etre.
So, I wish to rejoin the fray, and crank up the temperature.
I have more than a few likely candidates: If Mark Twain were alive today, he wouldn’t bother writing Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences. He would instead produce something more like “Stephenie Meyer’s Violent Crimes Against Her Mother Tongue.” There is no popular writer working now who more consistently fluffs banal mediocrity. I would ban her for that.
I would ban any book with an “as-told-to” byline and any book by a retired politician or adviser. Also, all books whose authors have received a $1 million advance and any book where the author’s name is printed bigger than the title. Gone would be all “Twelve Steps to Dysfunctional Hysteria” self-help books, pop psychologies and celebrity bios. In a special decree, Kitty Kelley would face a firing squad, and Jonathan Franzen and James Patterson would be locked in a room together for life. I would rather listen to a team of life insurance salesmen.
All poetry with warm, fuzzy thoughts will be consigned to shredders, and all humorists who write about their own families will be forced to read Anna Karenina in a really bad translation.
Also gone: gift books never really meant to be read, novelizations and anything post-Ann Rice with vampires or zombies in it.
While we’re at it, let’s disqualify Tennyson and Browning for being the literary equivalent of tile grout.
As a special favor to several women I know, I would ban Brett Easton Ellis. Not his books, just him.
While we’re at it
We needn’t stop with books; let’s get rid of some non-literary irritants.
Let’s ban waiters who call you by your first name the first (and maybe only) time they meet you (faux friendliness).
Let’s ban all Kardashians hairy or smooth, tent-pole movie franchises, sickening orange sodium-vapor lights, and, perhaps most of all, smiling “good-morning” TV shows.
Away with those who use “quality” as an adherent adjective (such as “quality cooking”), Kennedy conspiracy theorists, any fast food with a Scottish surname, bras for cars. May Tom Clancy and all writers of techno-military thrillers follow him into a bottomless pit. Strike down that annoying woman who sells car insurance on TV. Strike down all paranormal crime fighters.
Banned for life: Clothes with brand names on the outside.
Housewives claiming to be shamans.
Paintings of bald-headed naked women (you’d be surprised how many there are).
Music when you’re put on hold. Phone solicitations at dinner time. Festival seating. Celebrity sex tapes. Celebrities you’ve never heard of. Celebrities.
People who talk during symphony concerts and movies. Artificial turf, domed stadiums, designated hitters. Oy veyzmir! Designated hitters. I’ll never accept them, although second-guessing umpires with TV replay may be the final indignity.
Any so-called “reality TV” without Mike Rowe narrating. Especially those populated with regressive alpha-males who talk tough and boss people around. Gordon Ramsay and “Old Man” Richard Harrison: Both repulsive.
TV news happy talk. TV talk shows, TV evangelists. Well, we’d better not get into TV, or better yet, let’s just ban television.
Everybody could pick an issue
Before I get another head of steam, let me apologize to anyone I have failed to offend. I’m sure there is something that you enjoy that I would blast from the face of the planet, I just couldn’t think of it at the moment.
Playing Dante is fun, consigning everything to its rightful circle of hell.
But as I reread this proscription list, one thought springs to mind: Boy, I’m glad I’m not in charge. I could become one bossy dictator.
And boy, I’m glad no one else is in charge. We would all be dictators if we could. Some would ban testosterone, others would ban feminists.
Pick an issue.
Maybe it’s time to tone down the righteousness. Maybe what we need is not more sensitivity, but less. Maybe we should just let the other guy be.