Titillation Part Two

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?

  10 comments for “Titillation Part Two

  1. January 21, 2010 at 9:20 am

    How funny, Shelly! I wish I had as entertaining a tale as this to explain why I’m not a fan of romance books. LOL. Just not my preferred genre, I guess. I also can’t get into vampires or wizards. Like you, I will not waste the time reading books I don’t enjoy where there’s just so many I do enjoy out there. I don’t remember my parents ever censoring any book I ever read, although my younger years were mostly Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc. As a teen, I read a lot of true crime books along with fictional mystery and thrillers. To this day, those are still my “staples”, although I do enjoy a biography or memoir once in a while, too.

    I’ve never censored any book my kids have read. I have to say, my kids read very little for pleasure, but between the books assigned for school, homework and all the sports and music they do, there’s not a whole lot of time. Once in a while, the kids will be assigned some reading material that has some parents at the school in an uproar, like His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman and I’ll read it before they do just to get a sense of what the issue is so I can discuss it with them. Often, those books turn out to be some of the best books I’ve ever read.

    • January 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      You are a good Momma to read what is required for your kids before they do! However, I agree with you that young adult fiction can be pretty doggone good.
      I know you like those true crime dramas, but they often make me afraid of my own shadow!

  2. Mel
    January 21, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    I wasn’t officially censored in what I read, but, growing up in a very small town in South Louisiana, being Southern Baptist, and everyone knew my mother, and the librarian in all my schools attended my church, I couldn’t get away with anything! I was not even allowed (by the teacher) to do my term paper in my junior year of high school on John Updike because it wasn’t appropriate for “a girl”. I am an avid reader now and read about everything except true horror.

    I didn’t so much as censor my kids as make sure that they read age/understanding appropriate material.

    • January 25, 2010 at 6:16 pm

      Dang! Mel, you were in a tough position. I know all about that small town stuff. But, I can’t believe they wouldn’t let you read John Updike!
      Oh, I don’t read horror either! Ghost stories for sure, but not blood and guts.
      I didn’t censor my kids either … and I wasn’t always good at guiding their reading. I don’t think it harmed either of them.

  3. January 21, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    No, no and no. But thinking about it, I hid The Godfather when I read it at 12 and there were some adult scenes in it that I probably should have been reading then.
    Alas, I was a Harlequin romance reader as a teenager, my cousin and I could buy them for 10 cents used up in Nova Scotia. Then I went through a phase in college reading them b/c I could read one in 1.5 hours and still get homework done. Unfortunately, I am an obsessive compulsive reader and will not do anything else except read when I have a book going.
    I don’t like psycho thrillers and really don’t like Jodi Piccoult even if she is from around here. I read to be entertained.
    My two oldest are readers and I have not censored their reading, there’s worse things that they could be doing. They were into either Crichton or Sci fi, redwall series.
    .-= Jennymcb´s last blog ..How to Know When You are One of the Old at Work =-.

    • January 25, 2010 at 6:14 pm

      I knew you were into the romance novels, but again it’s not my cup of tea. I like mysteries, and enjoy biographical novels. Given a choice, it would be just short story reading for me. My short attention span showing there?

  4. January 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Hoo-boy. You got me with this one. My mother didn’t censor our reading in any way. As an English teacher, she did try to develop our sense of what was good reading as opposed to trash. I had the same sort of misadventure at age twelve as the one you describe, only it was with Mary McCarthy’s Vassar epic, “The Group.” I actually bought it at a church rummage sale, where the lady at the booth described it as “the adventures of some college girls.” Clearly she hadn’t read it. My mother saw it when I brought it home and simply nodded. She might have had a bit of a wary look in her eye. It was a long time ago. I read several of the other books I’d bought, and when I finally turned my attention to “The Group,” it didn’t take long for me to think, “Yuck! I don’t want to KNOW about this stuff.”
    I actually took the book to Mom, handed it to her, and said, “I don’t want to read this until I’m at least in college. It’s just not a good book for me.” She replied, “It’s good that you figured that out for yourself. I’ll keep it on my bookshelf, and you can read it when you’re ready for it.” It stayed there for years. I eventually did read the book, but I was much, much older.
    I thought she handled it well. She continued to encourage us to read anything and everything that interested us, but she also continued her subtle reinforcement of discriminating reading habits. And years later she told me that she did have a word with that lady at the church sale. I’ll bet she did!
    .-= Anne´s last blog ..The News from Haiti is Not Good =-.

    • January 25, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      I bet the lady at the church got an earful! But, aren’t you proud of yourself for “knowing” enough about yourself to put off reading the book? I find that pretty amazing.

  5. January 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    The only censorship my Mom ever put on me with respect to reading was that she said she really didn’t like those nasty magazines -i.e. “True Romance” or “True Love” things. Any hard bound or paperback I brought home to read though was accepted by her. Thus, I became by age 9, a huge fan of the bookmobile every time it visited our village. I read the huge book “Not As a Stranger” when I was 9 years old. Mom raised her eyebrows a bit -mainly over the size and also, knowing a bit about the story involved but she never said I couldn’t read it. I re-read that book twice -when I was about 13 and the 3rd time, when I was 16-17 years old and it was amazing how much more of it I understood each time! This post just gave me a bit of inspiration for a post of my own too now -provided I can keep “ownership” of the computer today anyway.
    .-= Jeni Hill Ertmer´s last blog ..Finding a Match =-.

    • January 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm

      I’m not familiar with “Not As A Stranger.” Was it one of those books my Momma wouldn’t let me read? Hmmm.
      We didn’t have a bookmobile, either. When I was a kid, the “library” was a box of books at the 1st National Bank!

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