A new Gaiman book is always cause for celebration. He is one of the few authors I will pre-order, eagerly anticipating the day the hardback copy lands in my hands. I would never consider buying an e-book version, unless it was to have an emergency copy to read when I’m in one of those horrible medical or oil change waiting rooms with nothing but mind-numbing magazine fare to read and no cell reception.
Trigger Warning is worth the read if only for the introduction, in which Gaiman discusses the merit of the trigger warning concept. Does the very existence of the trigger warning mean that we as a society are overprotective? Can readers not make decisions on their own? This is one of the problems I often address in my classroom. I’m generally anti-censorship, with the only exceptions being visually graphic comics and novels. Still, there are certain books in my classroom library that I loan out with “trigger warnings.” The Lovely Bones, for instance, is one of my favorite books, but when a student expresses interest, we discuss the themes and maturity level necessary for responsible reading.
Does that count as a trigger warning? Am I promoting the oversensitivization of American youth?
I consider it a trade off. Having conversations with readers about what might disturb them means I can limit authoritarian censorship. Informed readers are readers making informed decisions. Isn’t that what we want? And don’t we want book recommendations tailored for our tastes and sensitivities?
Neil Gaiman’s thoughts? “I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarrassed or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and my daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.”