Pile them up between your beans and rice.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of Unprepared! Thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way. You can read our first post, How to Prepare for a Russian Invasion of Ukraine and see how it’s held up.
Add another one to the list: books. Paper books, preferably of an older and classic vintage. Leather, clothbound, hardbacks, paperbacks, in that order.
I was recently horrified to learn that The Roald Dahl Story Company is rewriting Dahl’s classic children’s books—like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach for “sensitivity.”
The Telegraph explains:
Language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race has been cut and rewritten. Remember the Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach? They are now the Cloud-People. The Small Foxes in Fantastic Mr Fox are now female. In Matilda, a mention of Rudyard Kipling has been cut and Jane Austen added. It’s Roald Dahl, but different.
“Roald Dahl, but different” isn’t Roald Dahl at all.
The company claims the changes are “small,” but The Telegraph lists hundreds of them.
Normally, in this sort of writing, I would go on a long diatribe about why this sort of Orwellian censorship is wrong, but honestly, if I have to explain it to you, go away. Close out this article, unsubscribe, and let me never hear from you again. Not sorry to see you go. You are neither the “target market” nor the “preferred clientele.”
However, to emphasize how incredibly wrong you would be to support this, I’ll quote a few author reactions.
“There are millions, probably, of his books in secondhand editions in school libraries and classrooms. What are you going to do about them? All those words are still there. You going to round up all the books and cross them out with a big black pen?” — Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials.
Understand that once this seal has been broken, there is no stopping the flood. The sort of people doing this are—in their mind—fighting a holy war. They are absolutely right and everyone else is wrong, and they will stop at nothing to rebuild the world in their image… even if they have to burn it down to do it.
So, obviously, you should buy up all of the Roald Dahl books— ideally used copies. And definitely paper copies, because sooner or later I bet these types end up pushing out “upgrades” to the electronic versions.
And hey, if I’m wrong? You’ll have a bunch of awesome books to read.
Funny enough, they seem to be sold out right now, so if this is all a clever marketing hoax by The Roald Dahl Story Company, then bravo.
But which other books should you buy? Thankfully the government of the United Kingdom has provided a list, but it may get you put on another list.
I share this with bit of hesitation, since the primary source is The Daily Mail, which is only one or two steps above The Weekly World News. Also, they did not publish the full list, though apparently Douglas Murray of The Spectator has also seen this list and found his own books on it.
With the disclaimer out of the way, the story is that the Research Information and Communications Unit of Britain’s Prevent, which was supposedly established to keep people from joining ISIS, published a list of materials favored by far-right extremists, such as:
1984 — George Orwell
The Lord of the Rings — J.R.R. Tolkien
Brave New World — Aldous Huxley
It also warns about Chaucer, Milton, and Tennyson. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these authors.
In fact, intelligence agencies seem to be threatened by anything that represents Western civilization, such as Catholics praying in Latin.
I’m sure purchasing any of the following may also get you put on a list:
The Odyssey — Homer
The Iliad — Homer
The Aenid — Virgil
The Divine Comedy — Dante Alighieri
So definitely do not read these authors, lets you be judged a far-right undesirable. Otherwise, if you do not care about these sorts of classifications, buy them all in print.
What about “book bans?”
It’s interesting how people who usually decry “book bans,” like author Stephen King, have been largely silent on these issues. To be clear, when people talk about “book bans” in the Western world, they’re talking about library curation, and almost always school libraries funded with taxpayer dollars.
There’s a very big difference between a school librarian or an elected representative deciding that a children’s library shouldn’t carry certain books and:
The publisher retroactively rewriting a book long after the author is dead.
The government putting you on a list for reading the book.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn always tops the “most banned” lists, but has anyone ever actually been restricted from reading it? No, it’s one of the most popular, published, and distributed novels of all time. In fact, go download a free copy right now from the awesome folks at Standard Ebooks. Since it’s not remotely managed like Amazon’s ebooks, no one is going to remotely alter or wipe it after the fact.
Funny enough, Huckleberry Finn is often “banned” for the same reasons the ghouls in charge of Dahl’s books are rewriting them, because it offends “sensibilities.”
But… maybe Huckleberry Finn doesn’t belong in a school library in 2023? My children are homeschooled, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. That should be a decision between librarians, school administrators, parents, and elected officials.
Many books are “banned” by school libraries. You also won’t be able to check out Dr. Theodore Kaczynski’s widely cited paper, Industrial Society and Its Future or Justine by noted French nobleman and freedom fighter Marquis De Sade, but you don’t see people protesting the PTA meeting over that. And again, both of those texts are widely available to whoever wants them.
There is a big difference between curation and desecration. Let’s not confuse the two.