Blasphemy, Captain Underpants, J.J. Connolly, Layer Cake, lit mags, Nin Andrews, Notes for a Sermon on the Mount, Profanity, Sherman Alexie, swearing, YA fiction
With apologies to my mother, I really must weigh in on this topic since I am seeing a lot of lit mags put a ban on profanity, or at least strongly discouraging its use. [Read those guidelines.]
And while I am not an advocate of so-called “potty mouth,” I think that refusing such work is short-sighted. And here’s why: Sherman Alexie, Nin Andrews and J.J. Connolly.
What? Bear with me. I am getting to the point.
Which is that under some of these editors’ guidelines, we would not have gotten to enjoy some really goddamn good stuff.
Let’s take Alexie’s short story Cry, Cry, Cry from Blasphemy as an example. Without all those explicatives (you can count them if you want) the story just doesn’t work. And by not work, I mean that we would not get the same taste for Junior and his cousin’s world without them. They are, therefore, absolutely essential to the story.
Such is the case for the body of poet Nin Andrews’ work. I mean she practically owns the word “pussy”. [Yes, I did get the irony in that statement.] Who amongst us could live without the poem Notes for a Sermon on the Mount which begins: “1. Pussies are not gods.”
Classy. You’ll find it in The Best American Poetry 2001.
I don’t think I’ve looked at the world in quite the same way since I read that poem. And neither would I have gotten my hands on J.J. Connolly’s book if some had their way.
Layer Cake (WAY better than the movie) could have been blocked by the publishing house. Publishers says that they are just as tried of all the fuck, fuck, fucks as the lit mags.
Well, I am sorry, all you shit-phobes. Despite the frequent use of the f word, Layer Cake is very skillfully written and the profanity is actually necessary to the narrator’s characterization.
Without it, the book would fall flat. It would be like trying to cut up Pulp Fiction to make it G-rated. And who the hell wants to see thatt? Not me! Give me the cussin’ in all of its full glory. If we can tolerate the language in film, why not in literature? Are we too good for ourselves? Christ!
Now, don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that this shit is appropriate for young audiences. I am against the copious use of such language in YA literature.
I hear from this researcher that it is more of a problem than I thought. Just because “potty mouth” is a part of teen/tween culture doesn’t mean that I have to support it.
Neither am I saying ban a whole book for one or two words. Come on. You’re afraid of Captain Underpants. Really? My kids love those books.
But kid-lit and YA aside, if you are an adult writing for other adults, who am I to say that your work doesn’t demand profanity in terms of character or setting or whatever.
What I do want is for you to keep craftsmanship in mind (as always). Profanity really is sometimes just the right word. Abso-fucking-lutely.
Maybe you don’t feel that way. These are all my opinions. I prefer to have some and share. Let me know what you think. Comments welcome.