Sticks and stones can break my bones but…
Whenever I write I never aim to deliberately offend anyone. I work with the understanding that some people will be offended but that is inevitable. Alice in Wonderland was banned in China because it is gives animals the ability to speak. The Harry Potter series has been accused of promoting black magic and witchcraft, even Where’s Waldo is banned in certain parts of the globe. Some authors thrive off controversy as it helps their sales figures. Intentional or not, here is a list of five controversial novels and the effects they had on the world.
Disclaimer: I’m not promoting any of these books.
5) Amok by Krystian Bala
This story has become a popular urban legend especially amongst writers. In Poland, the police discovered a dead body in a river bearing the marks of torture. They were attempting to solve the murder when one of the officers received an anonymous tip off telling him to read the novel Amok. The officer did so and was shocked to discover that the book featured a very similar murder and included details of the current murder investigation that only the murderer would know. This was because the author of the book, Kristin Bala, was the killer. Bala was found guilty and given a prison sentence but the police found details for a second novel on his hard drive…
4) Rage by Stephen King
Rage is a lesser known Stephen King novel first published in 1977 under the name Richard Bachman. It is the story of a student called Charlie who takes his algebra class hostage after shooting two of his teachers. He is able to communicate with the school principle via intercom and torments him and his classmates during the standoff.
King asked the book to be taken out of print when it was discovered his novel had been linked to numerous real life school shootings. One such shooting happening in Washington DC in 1998 when Barry Loukaitis shot his teacher and took his classmates hostage while quoting a line from the novel. Another incident happened the following year when Michael Carneal shot eight students in Kentucky. The novel was found in his locker along with a collection of Richard Bachman books. It was this last event in particular that moved King to take the book out of print. King has since written essays against gun violence.
3) The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
This is perhaps the first novel that comes to mind when people think of controversial books. Although The Satanic Verses was met with positive reviews in England and was a Booker Prize finalist it offended many people in the Muslim community. The Supreme leader of Iran placed a Fatwa (a bounty) on Salman Rushdie, the author and on anyone linked to the publishing process of the novel. Book shops caught selling the novels were bombed, there were riots on the streets and Rushdie was put under police protection. Although Rushdie has escaped the Fatwa unharmed a translator of the book was stabbed to death for his involvement.
The Fatwa is still in place today with the bounty being just over three million pounds. It is unlikely to be removed meaning that Rushdie will be a wanted man for the rest of his life.
2) The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye is often cited the classic American novel, it tells the story of Holden Caulfield as he walks out of school and stays in New York for a couple of days. There aren’t any shoot outs or fast cars, it is just Holden reflecting on life in particular the idea of childhood. The book has won awards for its brutal honesty but it has also been linked to several murders,
The most notable case was Mark David Chapman’s murder of Beatle’s member John Lennon. Chapman was found with a copy of the book on him, in which was written “To Holden Caulfield from Holden Caulfield. This is my statement.” Chapman also read an extract of the book in his defence in court.
Honourable mention – Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? by Bill Martin Jr
This children’s book, written by Bill Martin Jr, was banned in the state of Texas. It wasn’t the content of the book that caused a problem, there isn’t a plot as such Brown Bear Brown Bear revoles around different animals naming each other so the children readers can help idenifty them. Unfortunately another author called Bill Martin wrote Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation. This Bill Martin’s work was meant to be banned but due to an admin error Brown Bear Brown Bear was hurriedly removed from library shelves. I would have loved to have been in the room when the board of education members realised their mistake. Brown Bear Brown Bear is now back in print.
1) Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Fifty Shades of Grey is the most recent controversial book on this list. If you have managed to avoid the hype and controversy of this series, you need to know that the reader follows journalist Anastasia Steele as she falls in love with a young businessman called Christian Grey. Grey seduces her with money and gifts and sex…
The main reason I hate the book is the poor writing style. Here are a few extracts:
“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”
“I feel the colour in my cheeks rising again. I must be the colour of The Communist Manifesto.”
“I’m all deer/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake – and he knows exactly what he’d doing to me.”
50 Shades of Grey, E.L. James.
Those are some of the best worst quotes I could find that were suitable for my website. If you want a laugh I suggest googling worst Fifty Shades of Grey passages. It’s frustrating that something or such poor quality is selling well purely because of the subject matter. As the saying goes, sex sells. It’s not the content I have an issue with, I’m annoyed with books like this flooding the market and making it difficult for first time authors to achieve publication.
Those are my top five controversial novels. Have you read any of those novels or do you think I missed a novel off the list? If so let me know in the comments down below and I’ll see you next time.