Thursday, July 05, 2007

Would you? Could you?

I am somewhat perturbed…

Possibly even disturbed. Nay, even distrubed. And distroubled too. All of them. Because some unknown person, possibly not a million miles away from me may be all of this and more. Some individual who not inconceivably shares this city with me, who tromps over the same cobbles, rides in the same trams and patronises the same bookshops as me is a mutilater of book(s).

Last weekend I discovered a second-hand Johanna Lindsay novel with a full smutectomy. A surgical boob-removal of the printed kind.

Ladies (and gentlefolk who haven't turned away at the signs of an impending girlie froufrou rant) I am speaking of Brave the Wild Wind here. By Johanna Lindsay. Published in 1984. I read this book when I was fourteen. I may have ended up with some slightly peculiar ideas about ranching in late 19th century Wyoming, but I was not scarred for life. I knew breasts existed by then, even if they were but a distant dream. Heaving or not, they didn't do much sullying that I noticed. I still offer my seat to old people and pregnant women in crowded buses. I floss and eat a fibre-rich diet.

But the copy of this book that I picked up over the weekend to flick through in a wavelet of aqua-and-tangerine-tinged nostalgia has been altered by nameless hands. A knife has been used to carefully cut out lines of thund'rous passion. Or even just the odd thund'rously passionate word or two on certain pages.

Now these days, I might take issue with some aspects of the book that didn't particularly bother me when I first unearthed it in the stacks of a local library many, many moons ago. Lets just say it's "of its time". And in certain ways this actually makes it kind of interesting to revisit 20-odd years later.

But as for the slice and dice operation? A couple of possibilities occur to me.

1. Censorship (boo!hiss!). I can't imagine someone making lace from lasciviousness like this for their own personal reading pleasure. It makes the pages too hard to turn. It is far, far easier to just skim over the bothersome parts or even grab a handy marker pen if motes offend the eye to the point of blurred vision. At least this has the advantage of leaving the non-trashy, possibly plot-related passages on the reverse side intact.

I can't help but think that if gaps are the aim of the exercise, then this level of effort to excise squidgy bits from reading material indicates the determination to Make A Point. Look! Look at the gaps! Look at the emptiness where once was badness! Gentle readers, see how you too can save your fragile minds from this pollution! Seize your x-acto knives and free yourselves from the chains of overly-wrought passion!

So this leaves me with at least one possible alternative.

2. You know those notes created by cutting words out of printed material favoured by many old-skool whodunnits? After enough coffee I can imagine at least a few occasions when life in Prahahaha would require that someone communicate anonymously and yet amateurishly the need to press mounds, skim curves, and pebble all manner of things. It's that kinda place. Sticky glue, print-stained fingers and all.

But I do worry about what they did to the mule.


fiveandfour said...

I had a similar experience while writing a paper on fascism and the Nazis where I came across the several xacto'd books in my local library. What never fails to amaze me is that it seems like the people who do such things are the exact same people who'll yammer on about how great Western Society is for the world, how it's brought so many benefits to so many people - including things like freedom of speech.

You know those notes created by cutting words out of printed material favoured by many old-skool whodunnits?

But maybe I'm thinking too terribly of people. Perhaps someone was just writing one helluva 'I'm Your Secret Admirer' letter. Working a mule into such a letter would take some real talent - so hard to keep it classy when a mule is involved.

Bookwormom said...

I've never seen a book with the squidgy parts excised, but I've bought & borrowed several where the exciting parts have been already dogeared- just in case the next reader would like to skip straight to them.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

fiveandfour, my mind is quite a-boggle at the irony. Paper on facism? X-actoed source texts? Nahhh...

hi bookwormom, you've just reminded me that my favorite example of this kind was one where the squidgy passages were not only dog-eared, but underlined in ink.

And it was only a fairly tame category.

Heloise (& Abelard) said...

I'm ashamed to say I underlined a Johanna Lindsey myself. Of course I was 12 and it was my first romance novel, Captive Bride. The best part was finding it at 16 and being mortified as only a 16 yr old can be mortified!

Actually if I was creating a ransom note, maybe facist history books would be a good source?

EvilAuntiePeril said...

hello heloise(& abelard). You reminded me of the copy of "Valley of the Horses" that was passed around at the back of Art when I was 12. It didn't need underlining because the spine was cracked so that it fell open at certain notable passages.

But imagine the ransom note you could write with it, Captive Bride and facist history books as your source texts.

"Dear Jondalar,..."