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Sunday, October 25, 2009
Author Bans His Own Book
Free speech is so misunderstood these days. To many believe it gives everyone the right to say whatever they like, whenever they like and to whomever they like. This is not true. Most of us are familiar with the rule about how you can't shout fire in a crowded theater. However, this is about a single word that came to me when I was thinking of this topic:
I read this book in high school, as part of the Bachman Books, a four-pack of twisted tales from the mind of Stephen King. It has always been one of my favorite collections, and the memories of the stories have all been vivid. The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man stood out, but none so much as Rage.
Charlie Decker, a senior in high school, brings a gun to the classroom and launches a horror-filled episode where teens are forced to face the ugliness within each of them. The better known book and movie Carrie covered some of the same concepts of peer cruelty. Today, these themes are still relevant, maybe even more so in a society where both parents are forced to work longer and longer hours and children are often left to handle the world on their own.
The book Rage became an issue of controversy after a number of school shootings were perpetrated by teens who had read and perhaps recognized their own pain in the character of Charlie Decker.
After a time, and too many deaths, Stephen King chose to pull the story from print completely. In a speech on violence, he said: "That such stories, video games (Harris was fond of a violent computer-shootout game called Doom), or photographic scenarios will exist no matter what--that they will be obtainable under the counter if not over it--begs the question. The point is that I don't want to be a part of it. Once I knew what had happened, I pulled the ejection-seat lever on that particular piece of work. I withdrew Rage, and I did it with relief rather than regret."
Everyone faces the choice, sooner or later, what they're willing to accept, what they're willing to promote. These choices define who they are as a person. I may find banning books by Mark Twain or Maya Angelou laughable, but I deeply respect Stephen King for his choice to remove his own work. I respect his decision not to shout fire in a crowded theater.