The practice of censoring literature has always interested me. It happens throughout the world, like, for example, in China.
I have been reading about New Century Press, a Hong Kong publisher who is publishing China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, a book that had been banned in China. These people have made an admirable decision. They’re putting their reputation and maybe even their lives on the line. What their motivation is I do not know but I cannot but respect their decisions. It takes real guts to make a stand on something you believe in.
But censoring books also takes place in the US and in the UK and in any so-called free state. Books are censored to fit publishing schedules, for marketing niches. Changes en-masse are demanded by the editor to the, usually, more than willing writer. After all, he or she wants to see their work in print, yearns to have it read and appreciated. The editor must know what they’re doing, right?
Censoring taste means censoring consumer behaviour. Publishing, like any other business, is all about patting yourself on the back. It’s making money, therefore you must be doing well. Does any major publishing house really take responsibility for publishing yet another celebrity biography?
With the rise of independent publishing and eBooks I hope attitudes will shift towards greater freedom of expression. Freer voices can only help free readers’ minds. If more and more people start reading controversial points of view, books written in different styles and with serious vision and purpose, then surely less people will venture into their local Waterstones and mindlessly pick up the number one bestseller.