Fuse #8

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pondering the potential scarring of children

There was recently a post on Child_Lit (can you tell that I'm catching up on my reading today?) that brought up a point that I, for one, have always wondered. A person on the site wondered if children's would be permanently scarred for life by authors like Edward Gorey. The debate, as far as I have read it, has remained civil but one person thought to drop this particular note:

When people mention this permanent scarring (as they frequently do, and not only in relation to Gorey), do they ever provide any evidence, I wonder? That there is an association between reading certain books and long-term mental damage is a frequently-heard empirical claim that ought, in theory, to be as susceptible to proof or disproof as the association - causal link, yet! - between smoking and lung cancer. Has anyone ever succeeded, or even tried, to prove it with any degree of rigour - or does it remain in the unscholarly realm of the gut reaction?


It seems to me that this question lies at the root of the censorship debate. If children aren't just disturbed by something they read but BRANDED FOR LIFE BY THE HORROR OF A WORK OF LITERATURE then where's the evidence? Have any of you memories of reading something disturbing as a child and, aside from the odd nightmare, think your lives could have been so much better if you had never dared to pick up that dreadful book? Honestly, I wonder.

5 Comments:

At 1:27 PM , Blogger Quooquoo said...

If I would've never read GO ASK ALICE, I would've been a happier camper. I read it when I was 12 or 13 years old--I'm 35 now, and I still get freaked out just thinking about that book. Sometimes I wonder if I were to read it now, if I would still feel that same way... But I'm too afraid to pick it up. Even the cover freaks me out. I seriously thought demons were gonna get me or something. Stephen King has NOTHING on THIS book!
Kelsey

 
At 1:29 PM , Blogger web said...

I truly do feel that way about _The Weirdstone_. But it's such an idiosyncratic thing, I don't see how anyone can base censorship ideas on these experiences...

 
At 6:35 PM , Anonymous Jen Robinson said...

Well, reading The Heart of Darkness in high school, while already depressed, was not such a great thing for me. But that's not a children's book. My general opinion is, if you find a book disturbing, stop reading it. I think that it's also an argument for parents to know what their kids are reading, and to talk with them about it.

Thanks for an interesting post, and for linking to my blog on your site! Have a great week! Hope that not too many of those books call to your from the library shelves...

 
At 7:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it's never too late. I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind right now and it is not only sucking my brain out through my forehead, it is retroactively ruining my life. I think I'm back to about 17 and slipping fast...
-rams

 
At 7:53 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oooh! Hot potato! This definitely the hottest topic I've encountered on my own blog. Obviously no one here is advocating for censorship, but we all seem to have harrowing experiences associated with books when we were kids. I can't help but notice, however, that since every person who has written in seems sane, sound, and intelligent (hence reading my blog in the first place) that the damage done couldn't have been too severe. Any other books with a painful past associated with them?

 

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