>Sparked by the Speak drama, the Tea Cozy asks the question, “what would you do if someone used your review as ‘proof’ that a book shouldn’t be in a library or a classroom?” and there’s a good discussion in the comments.
My own touchstone for this question is Judy Blume’s Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson, in which the word fucking appears once. I know that there are school and public libraries that would not want this book on their shelves because of that single vulgar utterance (by a troubled character, by the way, in case you thought Blume was cussing out her readers or something). But should a review mention it? On the one hand, I can’t think of a review reader who would mind having that pointed out, whether because it stopped them from buying the book, made them aware of potential controversy, or made them even more eager to read it. On the other, in a two-to-three-hundred word review, would quoting that word give its presence in the book undue weight? Or, by omitting any mention, am I trying unfairly to get people to buy the book? (This also happens when a reviewer substitutes the word meditative for the word boring when reviewing a book by a friend or admired author.) In the Blume case, I decided not to mention it because it did not seem fair to the book as a whole. Any book review has responsibilities in two directions–to the book in hand and to the audience of the review. Sometimes these interests can conflict and you have to come down on a side.
On the way to work today I was listening to Shirley Bassey’s latest recording, The Performance. I do love Dame Shirley–have you heard her cover of Pink’s “Get This Party Started?” Majestic. I’m listening to the second track, “The Apartment,” and start chuckling at its work-related (and beautifully enunciated) lyric:
I’m running away from Cinderella
don’t want to go to Rapunzel´s hairdresser
Get me outta this
This, this here fairytale
According to me dreams are hell
Set to a catchy Latin beat, it’s fun, right? But then I hit the second verse:
I don’t want to kiss that faggot froggy
don’t want to fall in love . . .
WHAT? It kind of put me off the whole thing. Even after (actually I suppose I mean to top it all off) I discover it was written by super-gay Rufus Wainwright, the levels of irony, unreliable narration, etc. in the usage just make me work too hard to enjoy the fucking song.