10 March 2011

Shame!

It’s happened. The first complaint about the content of My First Dictionary... the book.

Fortunately, bookstore owner and blogger Josie Leavitt – who describes her encounter with an unhappy customer in the article “A Censorship Issue” over at Publishers Weekly – is the level-headed sort, and recognizes that it’s simply wrong to let one person decide what books other people can and cannot read.

But I can sympathize with her niggling feeling of uncertainty when faced with an upset parent. While part of me feels secretly thrilled to have enraged a likely member of the self-righteous brigade, I don’t set out to genuinely distress anyone. Actually, I began MFD with the hope of making you laugh. Not everyone will, and that’s fine. Humour’s a personal thing. That’s why there’s no point telling someone else not to find something funny.

I’m glad Josie seems to have decided to continue stocking My First Dictionary. And I’m also glad she’s the kind of knowledgeable and enthusiastic bookseller who actually engages with her customers about the content of books when they come to her counter.

As a special thank-you, I’ll have to use her name in the next MFD entry. I’m thinking of featuring infanticide, necrophilia and, even worse, a spot of censorship.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=4334 is anyone's looking for the link

arnie said...

Your link to "A Censorship Issue seems to be broken. It leads to Blogger.com's home page.

Harry Campbell said...

Did you mean to link to the blog article?
http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=4334

Well done that bookshop owner by the way. A refund is if anything more than the customer had a right to. As if the cover didn't make it perfectly clear that it's not a children's book and clearly "may cause offence" as the phrase goes. Some people just like being offended.

Robert Seddon said...

Broken link; you want this one, I think: http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=4334

Elizabeth said...

The link to the article didn't work. Try this one instead:
http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=4334

popop said...

no worries, not everybody is blessed with a sense of humour.
love the MFD!

Draven said...

Link borked:(

The fearless threader said...

Sounds like yet another person who believes that ignorance is bliss and that children should not have any knowledge so it will protect them. Glad your friend continued to stock your book.

Dave C. said...

The link to the PW story isn't working - but I found it. It's this, right? http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=4334

Bryan M. White said...

I wonder if someone mistook it for a kid's book. That's seems to be the way a lot of things get started. Of course, if the customer was paying attention they might have noticed that the blocks spell "Vodka". You'd think that would be a tip off.

NiamhG said...

That post made me laugh. Necrophilia and infanticide eh? I'm very much one for personal censorship. There are movies I know I won't like so I won't watch them. Same with books (Angels's Ashes . . . shudderererer). There have been a couple of entries where I'm run shrieking from the room but . that's just me. Doesn't stop me coming back.
I'm also guessing that the book wasn't stocked in the children's section of the bookshop so what can you do?
Keep up the good work. Even the ones that send me shrieking for a brain wash.
NiamhG

Storycollector said...

You are right, humour is a personal thing, and it can also challenge the way people think. The mother was probably shocked that the world wasn't quite so saccharine as she wanted it to be. I'm just grinning at the thought of the conversation between her and the poor bookseller.

Ross Horsley said...

Thanks everyone! Link corrected.

John Cowan said...

The link is broken; here's the right one.

red-handed said...

I had a friend who brought her children to my book launch but would not tell them the name of the book "because it's something bad".

After awhile you lose track of all the sideways looks and you grow tired of explaining yourself.

Glad to see you have a good attitude about it.

Nari said...

Did the complainer actually buy the book for his/her child? Who buys a book for a child without checking it out first? Shouldn't that person be in trouble for bad parenting?

A Redhead Named Sam said...

Glad she's still going to stock the book! The book is appropriately packaged in my opinion and it should be blatantly obvious (to someone paying attention) that this isn't a children's novel. Goodness...some people. Sheesh.

Drackar said...

That's a very good sign. If it's so objectionable people try to get it pulled, it's gotta be interesting.

Amphigorym said...

How anyone could possibly mistake it for a child's book is beyond me-unless they're one of those parents that just let their children run amuck in bookstores, picking up anything they want, then buy it for them without checking to make sure it is, in fact, suitable for the child's age.

I'm gratified to see the seller is continuing to stock your book. You've provided much laughter to my sons and I (my sons, BTW, are grown men, though given the family sense of humor, I would have let them read your blog when they were in their early teens, had it existed at the time).

As others have said, not everyone has the same sense of humor. I'm always gratified to find someone whose idea of 'funny' is the same as mine.

dariusz ┼╝ukowski said...

I don't think your book is a bolt from the blue for a reader IF he or she had taken one look at its cover before giving it to a kid. After all the letters on the blocks do not say TEDDY or SANTA, they say *VODKA*, for chrissake.

Nicole said...

Well, with talk of rewriting the ugly words out of Mark Twain, I imagine the righteous shitbird brigade is feeling it's oats. Bravo to the bookseller for not buckling.

Cirrocumulus said...

Congratulations on your very first complaint!
Of course the customer must've been a slow reader in a hurry since the cover says "corrupting young minds" in fairly large letters, but don't be discouraged. Maybe your next complaint'll get lots of publicity in some prudish tabloid paper owned by a pornographer.

dadoctah said...

Congratulations! You tread ground once walked on by Shel Silverstein himself. (Check out the background on "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book" and how they had to add the line "a primer for adults only" to the cover after the satire-challenged got ahold of it.)

And don't be discouraged. If these narrow-viewed parents actually *knew* what was in Grimm's fairy tales, or the BIBLE fer cryin' out loud, they'd be stoking bonfires 24-7.

E is for egg said...

Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book (ISBN 067121148X) is a satirical alphabet book by Shel Silverstein. First published in 1961, it is sometimes described as "subversive". The cover on some editions of the book read "A primer for adults only" while other editions read "A primer for tender young minds" instead.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Shelby's_ABZ_Book

lingi said...

I have to admit that the first time I saw your blog I also mistook it for a short moment. But I also think the parents which complain about MFD should have choose any book like "humour for newcomers".
Your blog´s pretty fine. Keep it up!

Tine Appelman said...

You know you have something worth saying when someone goes out of their way to try to stop you from saying it.

Check out my blog: http://culturalfollylexicon.blogspot.com/

Pierre said...

congratulations!
request for censorship is a compliment.

look at the long list of censored book and be proud.
I love your blog!

Cirrocumulus said...

Today's word is forbidden.
Mummy says that book is forbidden. She won't let the family read it because it reminds her of her own childhood.

Uh-lease said...

As everyone is saying, the cover does say "Vodka" which hints to more adult themes. Maybe this woman couldn't read and was more upset about the shame she felt after her child's teacher called her in for a talk about proper parenting after the kid brought the book to school. She was just taking it out on your friend. Poor dear.

Kathleen Fisher said...

@Cirrocumulus Or perhaps mummy IS IN the book!

What's more shocking than Ross's delightfully evil sense of humour is that fact that the customer in question was clearly in a rush to find a gift for a child and randomly grabbed the nearest book. You can imagine the horrified looks on the other mummy and daddy's faces when little Tom, Jane or Dick opened their present. How embarrassing ... that's the real reason behind the customer's outrage!