Language censorship, Harry Potter, and authors

Last night I went to an authors’ do – a get-together for writers of Young Adult fiction who do school workshops for the agency Booked Out. My sister invited me along (she who wrote Notes from the Teenage Underground).

It was a chance for the writers (who came from all over Australia – in Melbourne for Children’s Book Week) to get together and socialise as well as chat about their work, and exchange notes from the field, so to speak. Writing must be a pretty lonely profession sometimes. At one point the conversation turned to swearing in books for young adults – the kinds of words a writer might want to include, but that get knocked back by editors, and how strongly the writer might want to fight for a vernacular that others could take offense at. And constant deliberation about what is appropriate for the age-group, when you take into consideration schools and school libraries and other ‘gate-keepers’ who might keep young readers from your books if they deem them inappropriate.

Which brought me to thinking about the most recent Harry Potter book. I’m quite a Harry fan (even though I feel like my sense of the world I live in becomes a little warped and a little more tense whenever I get immersed in the HP books – I have to ration my reading somewhat, consequently). And I was surprised to find the word ‘bitch’ in the last big battle scene of the latest book.

It was powerful, no doubt, and probably appropriate to what was taking place but…. I don’t know. I didn’t like it so much. I talked about it with a friend (another 30-something person like me) and she also found it jarring. Did it break into our immersion in this fantasy world perhaps?

Last night we laughed about it. Different writers talked about what they ‘d fought to keep included, and what they had been cool to give up, in terms of swearing and cussin’ by characters in their books, and how as younger writers they’d been a lot more militant/hardcore, and now tended to be a lot more acquiescent in bowing down to pressure over such issues… we imagined that, given HP7 was JK Rowling’s final hurrah, and not really at risk of being pulled off the shelves she could probably dictate her terms. At which point we wondered how tempting it might have been to her to really let loose…. imagine it!

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1 comment so far

  1. simmone on

    I just watched the edited version of pity24 with all the f’s taken out. I don’t know if it was just me because I’m so close to it but it seemed to make the film more humourous – but in a bad way – like, in a fartjokey kind of way. I think you either have to put it in or leave it out – if you try to temper it (ie: friggin or fricken or even freakin)then that jars too …


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