Sunday 25 June 2023

A Radical Act?

 'Collecting Old Books Is Now a Radical Act.' This headline in the magazine Spiked Online naturally caught my eye. The author, Philip Kiszely, argues that, with so much of the literature of the past – from Beatrix Potter to Roald Dahl, by way of Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming (Wodehouse has so far escaped, but is on the naughty step)  – being bowdlerised by the woke morality police within the publishing industry, the way to ensure the survival of those books as they were originally published is to buy them in unbowdlerised form and hang on to them, thereby 'doing [our] bit to conserve the culture'. And it will cost us next to nothing to buy up all those cheap paperback reprints from recent decades. 'Buying books is now a political act,' declares Kiszely, who advises us to be ready to hide those books away securely should the need arise. 'Who knows? In three years' time the sensitivity police may well be empowered to enter your house and audit the contents of your shelves. No kidding.' 
  Well, I guess he's not kidding, just overstating the case to give his piece more impact, but he does have a point. If books continue to be edited to conform to contemporary sensibilities, that is serious literary vandalism, and it could ultimately lead to the original versions becoming at best hard to find. It's nice to think that by enjoying ourselves browsing the shelves of second-hand bookshops we might ultimately be doing something socially valuable. Good for us.
  Here is a link to Kiszely's piece – 


  1. It is said that the (intermittently crazy) American politician John Randolph of Roanoke proposed a bill in Congress to prohibit the sale of Bowdlerized editions of Shakespeare. If he did, it went nowhere. On the other hand, you can read in Joanna Trollope's writing that the Americans of that day had their qualms about Shakespeare.

    I really do not fear the sensitivity police. Fashions change. One of these days, readers will consider that the monsters of whateverism under the bed were not worth losing sleep over.

    1. Thanks, Anon. I hope you're right. There are certainly signs of pushback against all this nonsense, but it is very deeply embedded – it'll be like turning round a supertanker...

  2. Will traditional ballet survive identity politics and transgenderism? Preserving film/video of these performances might be a good idea.

    Male and and woman...the only dance there is.

    Dale Nelson

  3. Super tanker captains say that it is actually quite easy to turn one! Turning intense wokery may take a little longer.