Thursday, January 19, 2012

"... ain't no rest for the wicked, money don't grow on trees ..."

DISCLAIMER – This is a banned book post.  A report of sorts. On a book that is either frequently challenged or is/has been banned. Some content may not suit you. So, consider if you want to continue reading, or if you’d rather wait for a ‘normal’ post.

The first banned book I decided to read was The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice). I picked this book mostly on a lark, with no real research into how it earned the ‘banned’ status (oops). I remembered reading two of Anne Rice’s Vampire series at USC and recalled that her writing style didn’t make want to puke.

I started reading, made some faces, got embarrassed and then reminded myself I must finish the book. I did. The writing was not bad. The subject was … well.

Let’s start at he beginning, shall we?

First, background on the fairytale itself. Sleeping Beauty’s PG and Disneyfied form is close to the version that was circulated by the Brothers Grimm. Some changes to the tale occurred, naturally, but nothing truly essential to the plot. What it is important to remember is that the Brothers Grimm had a tendency to rip off other fairytale writers - in this case Charles Perrault. Perrault is considered the ‘father’ of fairytales - his book The Tales of Mother Goose is one of the first to contain the genre. So his will be the one I reference in great detail below.

In Perrault’s version of the tale seven fairies were invited to bless a baby princess, who had been anxiously awaited for years. The silly king and queen ‘forgot’ to invite the evil fairy (party foul). The fairy comes anyway, and like the negative-Nellie-gatecrasher she is, ‘gives’ the princess a curse.  When she becomes an adult, she will pierce her hand on a spindle and die. Thankfully, one good fairy hadn’t given her gift yet, and she is able to partially reverse the curse (she’s only kind of useless). She’ll be in a coma for 100 years instead, not age, and still marry a handsome prince. Go figure. The fairy also thoughtfully included that the whole castle would share the coma state, which sounds really cool to me. So the overprotective dad bans spinning (upending the rural economy). And for about sixteen years, all is quiet. Then, the woman-switch flips and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Some independent, don’t-cave-to-the-man old woman is spinning in the castle one day, and the princess wants to give it a go. The woman (either in a genius move or because she is an idiot) lets the girl try. The curse is fulfilled, a massive spiny forest instantaneously grows up around the castle, and certain death awaits the knight who tries to part the thorns. As luck would have it (or some decent math skills) a hundred years later, a prince who had heard the story of the came to the castle and the thorns melted before him. He found the princess, FELL OVER due to her sheer beauty, and she woke up. As did the rest of the castle. Everyone’s lives continued where they left off in the happily ever after sort of fashion.

Wait … what? No kiss? I FEEL CHEATED! What happened? Here’s the deal – Perrault cleaned up a rather dirty folktale. In the folktale, Sleeping Beauty was raped in her coma and didn’t awake until after her baby is born and sucks the piece of flax that put her to sleep out of her finger. Then her new mother-in-law got jealous and tried to eat her and her baby. Yikes. It’s almost more dysfunctional than Twilight. Especially when you consider that the origin of the tale was most likely the Brynhild story in Norse mythology (lots of death and revenge).

Now to discuss the author, Anne Rice.  Anne Rice has sold nearly 100 million books. She ‘s written in many different genres, most notably Christian fiction and gothic fiction. Anne was a New Orleans gal for most of her life.  She left the Catholic Church, married her high school sweetheart, and took up writing. She was great, and kept writing. The only points in her life that are super interesting to me about Anne’s life thus far are her public decisions to rejoin and subsequently re-abandoned the Church.  More information on Anne and her religious experiences are provided below, because I am neither the most informed or best-qualified writer for the scope – especially when you can hear her own account! Links at the end, lovelies.

Now back to the book, if you’re still along for the ride.

The book opens with rape, like the dirty version of Sleeping Beauty always has. Ok. Weird. Especially seeing as the book was in the regular fiction section and was apparently SUPPOSED to be in the erotic section. Rape is not erotic in my opinion.  Nor is it something to be glorified. But our hapless heroine seems to take it in stride, and falls for her ‘prince charming’, hard.  He whisks her away for a stint of sexual slavery in an adjoining kingdom, in a tradition that has been going strong for at least the past two centuries. This sounds TOTALLY logical and feasible. So does the fact that this ‘sexual slavery’ seems to rotate around endless spankings and a very intense version of BDSM. Dom/mes are always dishing out pain, molding every prince and princess within reach into a permanent, enslaved sub.  Beauty begins to rebel in small ways, but is rightfully horrified at the gruesome punishments the disobedient are forced to endure at the hands of the Dom/mes.  She eventually loses her crush on ‘prince charming’ and has an ill-concealed attachment and affair to a fellow slave, which ends up causing them both being sent off to a village for a period of even harsher, more severe punishments.

I read this book in less than 4 hours. I shook my head, I shuddered a little.  This was meant to be erotic? I was not in the least turned on. What I discovered was that I was curious. I logged on and began to Google. Do people really think this is sexy? Do people do this? Is this really what BDSM is/is about?

First off, this book is (and others in the series are) immensely popular. People ARE into BSDM. Safe search came off, research happened.

Whoo boy.

Rice’s book basically focused on the S/M (sadist/masochist) and M/s (Master/slave) relationships that can occur in BDSM. The extreme versions of both kinds of relationships are shown in the book – which is why I was likely so freaked out.

So in review – I read the book, didn’t throw up, learned a lot about human sexuality, and learned that I don’t find pony play or rape erotic.

Nothing life changing. Not sure why this book has been banned when Harlequin has shelves and shelves in the library.

Just sayin’.

More information on her religious experiences:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for an honest review. Gonna skip this one. :)

    Even in current America where anything goes and BDSM is growing in popularity, local public libraries still work within the boundaries of what a community is willing to acknowledge. Lol.