At my age, I’ve decided that life is too short to read books I don’t enjoy. A book has to titillate me in the first chapter, or I’ll close it and walk away. Now, I defined “titillate” in Part One, so stop tittering about it. I simply mean that a book has to excite my imagination.
There are some things that I just don’t read. I’m opposed to book censorship, but I have enough brain to censor for myself. Usually I try to avoid what my Daddy called “bodice rippers.” It’s not that I’m a prude, mind you, it’s just that … well, what is it? “Romance” novels make me uncomfortable. It all goes back to 1966.
I had dropped in at my Mamaw’s house to visit her for a bit and was whining about having nothing to do. If you’ve had a child, you might remember that twelve year old girls do that whining occasionally, and do it very well. Mamaw was cooking supper as I plopped on the couch.
She said, “Well, gal, why don’t you pick up a book and read?”
“I don’t have anything good to read and Momma won’t let me go to the library,” I moaned.
“Well,” she said, “I picked up a book at the grocery store that looked good. It’s about dolls or something. It’s there on the coffee table. Take it and read, but scatt. Shoo on out of here, because I don’t have time to listen to your complaints.”
At twelve, I didn’t really want to read a book about dolls, but I was desperate for something to occupy my time. I grabbed the book, by Jacqueline Susann, called “Valley of the Dolls” from her coffee table and got out of her hair. As I walked into my own house with that brightly covered book in hand, my Momma came bustling in the door from work.
She gave me a hug and asked, “What are you doing this afternoon?”
“Oh,” I replied. “Mamaw gave me a book about dolls and I’m going to go read it.”
“Dolls?” she asked. At that moment, my mother’s eyebrows shot up and disappeared in her hairline. Although my Mamaw was clueless that the book she had given me was considered “pornographic,” my Momma knew darned well what it was.
“What book?” she asked as she snatched the paperback out of my hand. I thought she was going to faint right there. She shrieked like a banshee. “Your grandmother gave you this book? How dare she? How dare you? You WILL NOT read trash like this or your soul will burn in Hell!”
She swirled our the door and stormed to my Mamaw’s house. I don’t know what Momma said to my grandmother, but I can tell you that the air turned blue over that little house and my Mamaw couldn’t look me straight in the eye for weeks.
Mamaw never loaned me another book, and I never read Valley of the Dolls. That little episode made me feel guilt just looking at a book that holds titillating scenes in it. I probably won’t burn in Hell if I read them, but I’ll be imagining the scowl on my Momma’s face every time I turn the page.
Obviously this childhood incident influenced the way I read. Did your parents censor the books you read as a child? Did you censor books for your own children? Should we censor the books our kids read?