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Dr. Seuss vs. Stephen King! The Battle of the Self-Banned Books

March 21, 2021

Dr. Seuss fans flipped out a few weeks ago when Dr. Seuss Enterprises self-banned several of his allegedly offensive books, and I understand. One of the books, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, is beloved by a bunch of readers who probably aren’t racist (but that depends on which of the countless definitions of the word racist you think is right).

Nobody likes the idea of somebody else controlling what books we’re allowed to read. People don’t mind banning books other readers like, but they don’t like their own favorite books getting banned. And self-banning books just seems weird to some of us.

This situation, though, isn’t new. A few years ago, Stephen King self-banned one of his own books Rage because he believed it might have inspired a bunch of school shootings. At the time, I disagreed, but I understood.

To be fair, Rage was nobody’s favorite Stephen King book. Maybe it was for a few school shooters, but they statistically don’t count.

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I have an old copy of And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Despite the controversial picture, I like the book a lot. I don’t have a copy of Rage. I think I read it in one of those Richard Bachman compilations decades ago, and it was just okay. I don’t remember anything about it. I remember so little about it that I might not have even read it.

I remember some scenes from a few other Stephen King books like The Stand, Christine, and It, where characters were perverts, but the scenes were written in a way that (to me) made the author Stephen King seem like a pervert. Several of these scenes involved minors, which makes Stephen King look even worse.

If I were Stephen King (and I’m not, by the way), I’d think about self-banning these scenes out of my novels or maybe rewriting them to tone them down a little. School shootings are probably worse than having sexual thoughts about minors, but these scenes still are not not cool. And I’d think that having sexualized scenes involving teens is worse than a racist picture in a children’s book.

At least the two are close. Maybe. I’m still processing that one.

I don’t think anybody misses Rage by Stephen King. If I didn’t already have a copy of And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, I’d miss it.

On a side note, one week after several Dr. Seuss books were self-banned, Dr. Seuss book sales skyrocketed.

*****

Four of the top five bestselling titles last week were Seuss books, and their sales dwarfed sales in the same period a year ago: Cat in the Hat sold about 105,000 copies last week, compared to 22,000 copies in the first week of March last year; Green Eggs and Ham numbers were 90,000/34,000; One Fish Two Fish Blue Fish Red Fish, 88,000/26,000; Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, 74,000/43,000; and Fox in Socks, 64,000/23,000. Overall, unit sales in the juvenile category rose almost 58% over the comparable week in 2020.

It wasn’t just Seuss books that drove the gains last week. Sales in adult fiction jumped 40%, helped by a strong showing by the sale of nearly 80,000 copies of Sister Souljah’s Life After Death and sales of almost 57,000 copies of Stephen King’s Later.

Read more at Dr. Seuss Books Ruled Last Week’s Bestseller List.

*****

What do you think? Will you miss any of the books that have been self-banned? Is self-banning going too far? Should more authors self-ban their creations?

From → Literary Combat

One Comment
  1. Judging by the sales figures on the non-self-banned Seuss books, the Seuss foundation made a genius business decision to ban the six books.

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