A little controversy goes a long way in the book world, where tweets from prestigious publishers resembling Kanye West lyrics cause people to flip out. In the case of the books below, notoriety and controversy have added an extra facet to their reputations, propelling discussion and (in some instances) fierce debate that involved censorship. Here are our picks for the most infamous passages of famous books. Some spoilers follow.
1. The talking poo in The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
If you read The Corrections a long time ago and forgot all about its industrial-to-tech themes, the particulars of its familial strife, or even the characters’ names, you probably remember Alfred, as he descends further and further into insanity, hallucinating that his poop is out to get him, hanging from the ceiling and marching on him. It’s hard to find a review of Franzen’s book without a take on the scene. Some examples:
“The passage is amusing, but it reduces Alfred to something of a ventriloquist’s doll.” – Yale Review of Books
“Alfred’s hallucinations of turds were grimly funny, too, though Franzen is well aware that humour like this carries a risk.” – The Guardian
“Franzen manages to take it to the point where we don’t worry about his mental state, because he is simply providing us with comedy gold.” – A Novel Approach
Nearly a decade after the book’s publication, people were still talking about it: Ron Charles of The Washington Post hinged the opening of his review of Freedom on Franzen’s scatology.
2. Leslie’s death in Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Katherine Paterson has been challenging adolescent emotional stability for over 30 years with Bridge to Terabithia, a nice tale of friendship in which Jess and Leslie pal around in made-up sanctuary Terabithia, which is actually better than their real lives. Thing is, Terabithia is only reachable by this rope swing, and this rope swing hangs over a pretty dangerous creek. And, one day, while trying to get to Terabithia, let’s just say Leslie doesn’t make it all the way across. Hey, kids, here’s your lesson: everybody dies!
3. The part with the prostitute in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Antsy kids can surely find more titillating outlets for their hormones today, but for decades you could find them under beds and in closets, hiding from their parents and reading The Catcher in the Rye for its juicier bits, which they heard from all their friends were juicy indeed. Holed up in the Edmont Hotel in New York City, Holden spends an ultimately unfulfilling evening out with older women, before inviting Sunny up to his room. Never mind that his invitation also goes unfulfilled, The Catcher in the Rye has experienced more censorship and controversy than just about every other book published in the last century. Continue reading