1. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Books You Used to Love but Raise Too Many Red Flags Now

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Laurin Kelly, Aug 17, 2018.

    So in another thread, I mentioned the following:

    Anyone else have a book they used to love, but years later through maturity, experience etc. had you saying OH HELL TO THE NO when you think back on it? Gone With the Wind checks this box for me too, if for nothing more than the soft-peddling of slavery that completely went over my head when I was a wee, sheltered lass.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2018
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  2. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    When I first read Gone With the Wind I honestly thought the KKK were the good guys. I mean, thank god SOMEBODY is standing up to these highwaymen! In my defense, I was quite young, but in my non-defense... I have a history of being a Klan sympathizer. Yikes.

    When my niece was born I bought her a set of the Curious George books and sent them out to her and my brother called me and asked if I'd read them before I sent them. I said, yeah, dummy, you and I both read the crap out of them when we were little. He asked if I'd read them lately... he was laughing, thankfully, but... yeah. On re-reading them as an adult, they're a bit... problematic.

    I think Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series becomes problematic in the context of the sexual abuse in her own household, but I'm not sure I'd have an issue with the books if I didn't know the context?

    the Pern books are misogynistic as hell. But... dragons!

    A Spell for Chameleon is also misogynistic. Sigh.

    I feel like there's another one just on the tip of my fingers, but I can't grasp it... I may be back!
     
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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think it was a Dorothy Gilman non-series book where a woman gets lost in the desert, is bought as a slave by some guy, and he rapes her because, he says, if she was really the culture that he thought she was, she wouldn't "respect" him otherwise and she'd run away. As soon as the two of them discover that, hey! They both speak English! and he provides that explanation, it's all dandy and fine.

    Edited to add: Looks like the book is Caravan.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Nope, I guess I could consider myself lucky.
    Suppose the one I still kinda disagree with
    is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and
    Tom Sawyer, but it didn't glorify slavery, so
    it would be a stretch to have it raise a red flag.
     
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  5. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    The Chronicles of Narnia
    The Mote in God's Eye
    Heart of Darkness
    Lord of the Rings
     
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This was a big one for me. I see where the others could be too, but I read those as an adult; the Narnia books were bought for me (at my own pleading behest) when I was very much a child. I don't come from an anti-religious upbringing (which would be actively against), just a simply secular upbringing (we just didn't do religion, any more than we did rock climbing or parasailing). Regardless, the slyly indoctrinating, proselytising nature of those books, which is obvious to me now as an adult, is rather shocking.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad. I thought this was one of the funniest books I'd ever read, when I was young. Now I recognise what a xenophobic view of the world it was, even for its time. Everything was funny because the way other countries did things was 'inferior' in some way. I love Mark Twain, but this was not his finest moment as an author.
     
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  8. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Contest Administrator

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    State of Fear by Michael Crichton. The book itself is fantastic, and I still love the plot, but my God, the global climate change debate in it. I don't blame him, the book came out in 2004, when it was still iffy whether or not global climate change was actually happening, but he stands so openly and proudly against its existence that it's sometimes painful to read.
     
  9. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat Contributor

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    Holy crap. It's been ages since I've read The Thorn Birds , and I always loved it for its lush descriptions of the settings, and the way she put the writer into the landscape. But you're right, that was creepy.

    Gone With the Wind I agree on as well.

    And as others have mentioned, a lot of Mark Twain.
     
  10. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Agreed, I'm sure reading that book was part of what made me the kind of writer who wants reader to feel like they're living in the story along with the characters. I still maintain that it's a well written book in a lot of ways, but as so many things are when you look back on them, there is some problematic shit going down. I mean, "China Girl" and "Brown Sugar" are well-written songs IMO, but good Lord I doubt they'd fly today as mainstream hits.

    Back to the The Thorn Birds, I was looking into it a little more, and I guess another big issue in retrospect is that there is very little representation of aboriginal people in a time and place where I guess like, 60% of the population would have been Australian natives. I'm sure back when I first read it (I think I was 13-14) I didn't even know there were people in Australia before it was colonized.
     
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  11. Solar

    Solar Contributor Contributor

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    My first ever semaphore dictionary.
     
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  12. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    Honestly, a lot of Heinlein. He was a progressive in his day, but Jubal Harshaw keeping a bevy of hawt secretaries who lounged around poolside in swimsuits waiting for him to drop the first line and a brief plot outline for them to finish under his byline? Yeah, back in your cage, old man...
     
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  13. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Rudyard Kipling stories. I used to read the hell out of them and now I realise that they were very appropriative of Indian culture and didn't correctly represent the themes and characters he got from them.
    Also the Bible, I was given a child's edition and even that is terrible and scary. Joys of being brought up Catholic, eh?
     
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  14. Moon

    Moon Contributor Contributor

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    The Communist Manifesto. Thought it was a good book at 14. Now I can think of one hundred million reasons it isn't.

    Side note: The book itself had a red flag as its cover.
     
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  15. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There was a similar issue with James White's Sector General novels. For any who don't know: The tales of a multispecies Space Hospital and the medical staff therein, with lots of first-contact scenarios. Anywho... the only female human that's a regular character is the boobalicious, Space Hawtie™/Hawt Nurse™ Murchison, who is rarely referred to in terms that don't include her bursting bosom, and other curvaceous attributes. She's in an LTR with the paunch-o-matic MC of the majority of the stories, Dr. Conway. And yes, the writer goes so far as to detail out to us at one point that Conway is going to paunch while Murchison's attributes are defying all kinds of gravity. Rampant objectification meets unbridled wish-fulfillment fantasy. At one point in this long-running series of books, clearly someone has a talk with White concerning all this because Murchison gets suddenly fast-tracked to the level of Diagnostician, who are the very elite, the gods if you will, of Sector General. But, you know, up to that point...

    I was oblivious to this as a kid since boobs didn't really register for me, and I loved the stories because they were all about how and why these aliens were the way they were, how they had evolved, how they worked, given that many of the stories were about finding never-before-seen aliens in distress, so before the Space Doctors could do anything, they had to figure out what made the patients tick. I still love these books for that reason, given that so many Sci-Fi aliens are just lazily improbable, but when I've re-read those books as an adult, the portrayal of Murchison was cringeworthy.
     
  16. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    That sounds neat, minus all the big boobed-ness going on.
    Though wouldn't it be kinda implausible to have to figure
    out a ton of brand new species tick, when there is a time
    limit as to how long they have to cure/save the them?
    Sorry but the minor oberservation kinda throws the 'realism'
    of the concept out the window for me based on that. Unless
    they have a ton of autopsies to do and get the knowledge they
    need for the next one that comes along? IDK, I am rambling
    sorry. O_O
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I don’t know if anything I used to love has become an absolute “no” for me now. I can acknowledge the context and be honest about the problems with the work while still enjoying whatever aspects of it made me like it in the first place.
     
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  18. Necronox

    Necronox Senior Member

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    Catcher in the rye for me. Thought of it as an innocent book at first... but as I gre older and I started to realise what I meant.... not so much.
     
  19. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's no small amount of handwavium as regards first stabilizing patients of hitherto unknown species in these books, but again, these were favorites from childhood when suspension of disbelief is easier. If viewed through a lens of adult realism, yes, it's not very plausible that the medical team could learn what they need to learn about these patients in time to actually save them, but, if you're willing to put that aside, it made for some stories that were really intriguing as regards the way the doctors and nurses worked with other specialists to investigate their ships, glean clues from what they found, and then help these creatures. Science Fiction writers rarely delve into the why of their alien creatures, so to have stories focus on that was novel.

    As @Steerpike mentions, clearly we grow in sophistication as we become more seasoned readers, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the flaws in a book that grow evident with time - even when those flaws cross lines of ethics and "wokeness" - this doesn't have to mean we literally throw the book away.

    Laura Ingalls Wilder presents some views and engagements of Native Americans in her books that are racist by modern sensibilities, but it would be a mistake, imo, to discount her work or find that we can't engage her work today, given that she lived through the era in question and so her writing represents a kind of time capsule from the past. Equally, E.M. Forster's Maurice may feel repressed and not at all positive about LGBT issues, but again, it's a book not only about being gay in Edwardian England, it was written during the Edwardian Era by a gay Edwardian, having been penned by Forster in 1913-14 when he was 34 years of age. It isn't remotely "woke" by modern sensibilities, but it does portray an unparalleled, unfiltered truth about that era and about a topic that was dangerous to write about at the time. It's one of a kind.
     
  20. ChaosReigns

    ChaosReigns Ov The Left Hand Path Contributor

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    Kensuke's Kingdom raises many flags for me now, I loved it 14 years ago when I first read it, now, I'm like "yeesh, this feels like some thinly veiled racism in some ways..." I mean its a Japanese guy living alone on an island with Orangutan's for company, maybe I'm reading into it a bit too much. and they dont do much favors for the "killer men" in the book either...
     
  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    Interestingly, Tor just popped up an article on this very topic:

    Problematic Classics: Four Questions to Ask When Beloved Books Haven’t Aged Well

    The author concludes that some things, like Lovecraft, just can't be recommended anymore, while others may require a bit of a workaround. I think it depends on the audience, I won't go out publicly pushing Lovecraft, but will give him a nod with a strong caveat to people I think might be able to enjoy it. It helps that he's in public domain now, so nobody should be getting a penny out of it.
     
  22. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    What a great article - thank you so much for linking in there!

    I especially liked and related to the quote "Nostalgia doesn’t counteract the racism of the text." Now that I I know better, those problematic parts cast a pall over the work that is nearly impossible to get past.
     
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  23. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    Glad you liked it, I found it informative. Bader-Meinhoff syndrome has also lead me to this, which I said I wasn't going to inflict on the forum but, well, this seems like a good thread for it. SF author Charles Stross discussing some of Heinlein's strong and weak points as a caution and a guide.

    Dread of Heinleinism
    Charles Stross
     
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  24. Azuresun

    Azuresun Active Member

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    Jurassic Park is one of mine. Crichton suffered from a bad case of the sci-fi author who needs to stuff his latest research into the book regardless of how well it fits--I know we've got dinosaurs eating people, but the audience really need a digression on botany / chaos theory / touchscreen computers. And the anti-science stuff is just painful to read--not that you couldn't make a compelling argument about the merits of breakneck, profit-driven progress in modern society, but it's executed in a very clunky and grumpy-old-man manner. I find it amusing how the movie correctly figured most of the audience wouldn't care about that, they'd just want to focus on the amazing dinosaurs.


    To me, it always feels perilously close to censorship to argue that a certain book shouldn't be read because it's unsuitable to modern sensibilities. And it also seems a bit arrogant, saying that our modern values are the apex of human civilisation--can we be sure that future generations won't look back at stuff coming out today and roll their eyes?

    I'd much rather trust people to read them and be able to recognise that yes, this bit reflects older and discredited values that we don't hold to any more, so let's either ignore those bits and focus on the good stuff, or regard the book as a period piece that gives useful insight into the time and society it was written in.
     
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