Fickle (agarina) wrote in katarsisglace,

Something that crossed my mind last night

Yesterday my 11-year-old niece wanted to know about the book I was reading. She had seen The Master & Margarita on the table and the illustration of the cover [the black cat] caught her attention. I told her about the storyline and the characters, and finally she asked if I could lend her a Finnish copy of the book.

That's what makes me slightly uneasy now. I was ten when I got to know the book because of the exciting name of it [Satan appears in Moscow, by the way], sort of read some parts of it, but it wasn't until my 12th year that I completed reading it. I know my niece is very mature and has already read Tolstoy and Wilde [she regularly rakes through my bookshelves], and I think she probably could handle the story - 11-year-old kids have a different point of view than someone in her twenties or thirties, at times that is a true blessing - but I can't help wondering if many people would have been, um, less on the verge if they hadn't engaged themselves with highbrow literature so early.

Do you think there should be age limits in literature as well as in movies? Or even in all but name?
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I, myself, began reading Master and Margarita I a late 12. Honestly, I was confused a few times but the whole Berlioz-to-Yeshua thing, not quite sure how to explain it but I'm sure you follow.

I'm not really sure about my stand on the subject. I think that sometimes it's good that children aren't sure what they're reading or watching about, it stimulates their imagination, but they won't get the full effect unless they do know (they could just come back to the book a few years later). I think it mostly depends on the parents and how they'll explain things. Then again, I blame parents for everything.

...Eh. Is that a straight answer? =/
I don't know. My parents never censored what I read, but they did with movies and tv. Eh...dunno.
That's a really interesting question, actually, and not one I'd ever thought about before, really. I mean, I was the kid who had the parents constantly having to go through my room to check what I'd 'borrowed' from the books in theirs (I believe I tried to read A Clockwork Orange when I was about seven because I liked the picture...) but they were never particularly strict, to be honest, although they were with movies and TV programmes. Point being that I read a lot of stuff aimed at people older than me whilst I was still very young. Not necessarily highbrow literature, though I did read some of that too, but books that contained some pretty gratuitous violence and quite explicit sex (I'd read Lady Chatterley's Lover by's not HUGELY explicit, but it is quite). So, I don't know. It never did me much harm, but I can see how it could.

However, I think that, because of the imaginative, non-visual nature of books, it isn't really necessary to impose restrictions on them. If you don't understand the terminology, you won't get what's going on: if you understand the terminology, particularly sexual, you probably know anyway. Plus, if some books were censored, I think we'd be in danger of encouraging intolerance. For example, I've read a couple of books based around gay relationships (and even, sticking with the highbrow idea, those with homosexual subtext, like Dorian Grey) - and I'm ninety nine percent sure those would be banned first, to be honest, which would therefore encourage the hidden-away viewpoint kids get a lot. Sexuality in general, in fact, not just sexual orientation, would, I feel, be a less comfortably-discussed subject were it not for reading about it, which can't be good in today's society.

And then there's the matter of where would you end it? Should Harry Potter be banned because it contains violence (and, according to a large percentage of its readers, homosexual undertones...*grins*)

So, yeah...excuse my UberRant, but in short: nah, I don't think there should be age restrictions. If parents want to prevent their children from reading something, then fine, that's up to them, but I don't think it should be nationally enforced.

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I quite agree with you. Rating a book would also bring questions of time and value into the conversation; there are books considered as cultural history, take Dorian Gray for an example, yet it can be seen as a dangerous story for people not able to understand the context.

I also hope I won't get nailed for saying this, but in my opinion the lifetime of a book is longer than the lifetime of a movie. Partly it's because of there has been written text for so much longer than moving pictures, but I think it also has a lot to do with being able to imagine the scenery and characters yourself. There's something very primitive in all that playing with you mind, creating pictures on your own, associating it with your personal experiences - that's what we do all the time, after all -, perhaps that's why some stories never leave your mind once they reel you in.

I believe in a very natural way of judging whether it's okay for someone to read the book in question or not: if you're mature enough to be interested in it [preferably in it's original context], you should be given the chance. It doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be able to understand everything - associated with knowledge, just like you said -, but probably a bit more once you've really read the book. Trenina mentioned the Harry Potter books, and that's exactly where I see it very clearly, how people on different levels of development reach for different kind of plots and emotions. The order of Phoenix, for example, is to be understood on several levels. It works fine as a book for children, since there's a warm sense of humour and exciting events, but it becomes a lot deeper and darker if you seek for those well-hidden gestures towards the themes such as good and evil. Sure, the morality in the books is for everyone in the sense of the war being the main issue, but there are still so many aspects that cannot be noticed by children since they actually don't know they could seek for something like that. Or then I've just read my Potters a wee bit too carefully... [I'm by the way eagerly waiting for to see if all the slashy bits of the English version of the HBP have been translated in the perverted sense of getting them. ;)]

I dunno know if I'm really making any point here, I'm just spending my time and hiding from my studies.

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But does a child reflect the story to his own life the way an adult does? Of course I'm not suggesting that children skip the things they don't understand; that's usually when my niece phones me and asks my opinion, then it can take days or weeks until she comes back to me and tells what she's been thinking about the matter herself.

You probably don't even notice the slightly slashy parts of HBP unless you're used to imagining all that stuff going on between the lines. There are quite a few sentences that can be interpreted as slashy ones - but once again I repeat that this is completely dependable on the view the reader has. I myself can't help noticing these tiny hints, whereas someone unaware of slash [or fan fiction in general, for that matter] probably wouldn't even blink his eye to these. Then again, it's the English languge making these sentences possible; there's no way some of these are going to work in Finnish.

Lupin burst out laughing. 'Sometimes you remind me a lot of James. He called it my "furry little problem" in company. Many people were under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit.'

'It was cruel,' said Dumbledore softly, 'that you and Sirius had such a short time together. A brutal ending to what should have been a long and happy relationship.'

Harry, however, had never been less interested in Quidditch; he was rapidly becoming obsessed with Draco Malfoy.

'Master Malfoy moves with a nobility that befits his pure blood,' croaked Kreacher at once. 'His features recall the fine bones of my mistress and his manners are those of-'
'Yeah, we don't need to hear about you being in love with Malfoy,' Harry told Kreacher.

Harry stared at Malfoy. It was not the sucking up that intrigued him; he had watched Malfoy do that to Snape for a long time.

He pondered for a moment, then set off again, eyes closed, concentrating as hard as he could.
I need to see the the place where Malfoy keeps coming secretly... I need to see the the place where Malfoy keeps coming secretly...

Harry tried every variation of 'I need to see what Draco Malfoy is doing inside you' that he could think of for a whole hour (...)

Very, very tiny details, I know.

I was watching a talkshow earlier today; a journalist who was born in Israel and moved to Finland at the age of 25 talked about art being related to culture. Religion played a huge part in her explanation; she stated that the Western culture could not be understood without being familiar with Christianity. J.K. Rowling has claimed that her books have only very little to do with religions or spirituality in general, but as I was definitely raised in a Christian cultural environment, I therefore see several Christian references in the story. An Indian person wouldn't, I guess, not if he's been brought up in the Hindu culture. Sure he'd see the spiritual references but as a part of his culture.

Even though I'm really enjoying this discussion, I must give up and go to bed. Nighty night, I may have to read some not-so-very-highbrow literature before falling asleep. Oh and by the way, I can't recall a single dream about a movie, but several ones about books I've read. But as we've said several times already, this is so very subjective.
This is completely offtopic and all, but I had to laugh at the HBP slash-references...I hadn't even noticed those...*laughs, quite hard* I'd always associated the slashy-bits-of-HBP to be the whole Malfoy-crying scene: how many times have I seen THAT before?!

Ahem, anyway, sorry to get so totally OT, but I really had to say that...
I think that there actually are age limits on some English books -- my copy of Neil Gaiman's Coraline has the text "not suitable for children under 8 years" on its cover. I doubt such labels would appear on Finnish books!

I am not a very big friend of age-limiting anything. I do understand that movies and video games and such need sort of a sticker that says if the product in question has violent or otherwise "mature" themes to it etc., but with books it just seems unnecessary. I, for one, read too much adult novels as a child, and I think it might have slightly harmed my psykhe, but I think it's just a good thing. -- Some people might disagree, but I don't see anything bad in discovering dark sides of life because, after all, they do really exist. Besides, isn't reading safer than actually experiencing things in flesh?

If we're talking about how children couldn't handle some literature because of its highbrowness, I don't think parents should try to control it, to one direction or another. It's not wise to force children to read something because it would "make you smarter" or tell them not to read it because "you wouldn't understand it because you're so young". As livehigh said, children are self-regulating and if they like a book, they'll read it, and if they don't, they won't. I am not opposite to children reading something that would shock them, and I am a bit against this whole phenomenon of protecting children's vulnerable minds from all evil. Children -- and I'm a little confused for using the pronoun "they" when referring to children as I could as well say "we" because I don't feel mentally very adult yet -- children need to be slapped on the face now and then these days.

(Late comment, sorry for that.)