Friday, 3 November 2006

Hopping Onto The Book Ban(d)wagon

Are you upset with the latest list of books banned in this country? You're not alone. A small cadre of bibliophiles have even set up a blog to reverse what they feel is a worrying trend. While I find the ban irksome, this kind of excessive mothering shows that the government doesn't think we can decide what's good for us.

Frankly, I'm not much of a book lover, so it doesn't affect me a whole lot. I'm doing this for fun. And I don't like being painted as a cloistered, immature puritan out of expediency.

One thing noticeable (and predictable) about the list is that most of the titles have something to do with sex, religion and women, or a combination of two or more of those. It looks as if the censors took just one look at the title and BAM! Down came the rubber stamp. Maybe it's the exhilaration in the stamping, like a power trip. Or, maybe it's something else that's the real focus of the stamper's ire.

Anyway, with the help of, I took a closer look at some of the books not investigated by fellow watchdogs.

  • The Beauty of Chinese Yixing Teapots
    This ban is a mystery; all the book apparently talks about is tea and teapots. I see no reason for this, except that maybe it's the author that's banned, or if there are pictures of teapots that look remotely sexy. Or, maybe it was really, really late at night. They were sleepy and thought they were looking at The Beauty of Chinese Yixing Sexpots instead. So, down came the rubber stamp.
  • Women
    This book, by Annie Leibovitz and the late Susan Sontag, does have some provocative pictures: partial nudity, exposed innerwear, etc. Of course the chances that it could be abused are great, but better stroke materiel is available through the Internet, and from our legion of young, brilliantly-coiffed bootleggers. Big heavy deal.
  • Company to Company Teacher's Book
    "...for anyone studying or working in business, commerce or administration who needs to correspond in English," says the blurb. I don't know why this was banned either. Did the author use an unflattering scenario about Malaysia in a case study? Or maybe it's the emphasis on using English as a business medium that offends the officials?
  • How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It's Best to Start Early, But It's Never Too Late : a Step-by-Step Guide for Every Age
    I still shudder with dread when I recall the New Straits Times report about our youth's ignorance on sexual matters ("You mean, sex is for making babies?"; "I can get AIDS through sex?"; "Sex makes me pregnant?"). They need to know, have to know. Don't deny them the knowledge.
  • Taking Chances
    Unfortunately, the ISBN given for this book was wrong, and a word search turned up multiple results. But I guess the title alone is threatening enough. Too many Malaysians are causing catastrophes by taking chances on roads, gaming machines and Magnum 3-D betting centres. What would happen if they started taking chances at general elections?
  • Life on Earth: And Other Pieces (The New Cambridge English Course)
    They banned an English course supplement? Can you blame me for thinking this is part of some covert nationalistic war on the perverse penetration of the English language in our society - which might actually be a good thing?
  • Addicted to Love: The Kate Moss Story
    What's worse than a book that "glorifies" an anorexic, neurotic supermodel, or a book that "glorifies" a drug addict? A book that "glorifies" an anorexic, neurotic supermodel who also happens to be a drug addict, with a topless but covered picture of said stick-figured substance-abuser splashed on the cover... Gah! My eyes!
  • The Poor Bastard
    An anonymous reviewer talks about this book, thus: "...Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy feels trapped, treats girl like crap and takes her for granted. Girl breaks up with boy and moves on. Boy can't get over it, ...and falls into a hellish, self-conscious existence pondering his hang-ups, aging body, mortality, inability to meet women, obsession with porn..."

    Hmm. Does this sound like people we know?
  • The Missing Page and Ransom
    These books by Singaporean Douglas Chua, set in an alternate reality where we are really at war with Singapore. Somebody has issues.

On the other hand, banning Spongebob Squarepants from the airwaves is a much better move. His bizarre laugh gets on my nerves.


  1. Haha, true true about some of the books that were 'mistakenly' banned especially the one about sex education. Some people keep complaining about not enough exposure but is not doing (in fact barraging) about it.

    Banned movies are another problem... Talk about that some other time. But please don't ban SPONGEBOB! LOL (i like i like)

    BP: What else can they do? Some banned books have material people will abuse for some obscure reason.

    Death to Spongebob!

  2. I had no idea that this was happening. Thanks for letting more of us know; I abhor censorship of any kind, so I'm going to try to draw more attention to your efforts via the community of book lovers at Good luck!

    BP: Thanks!

  3. I love the title of your post! I am a librarian from Canada and have been keeping a blog about censorship: Although the books that are challenged in Canada (and US) are different from the ones banned in Malaysia, I found many of the themes and reasons for challenges similar. A big difference is that when Malaysia says banned, they mean banned. In Canada, we are usually looking at a school curriculum or school library ban for reasons that parents think materials are not age appropriate. However, those books are available in the local library or can be obtained through Interlibrary Loan.

  4. fahrenheit451moderator: As you may have noticed, our tightly cloistered society does things a bit differently here. Canada sounds fun.

    Good weekend!


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