Sunday 1 May 2011

How do you feel about offensive content in ADULT novels?

The SlapThe Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't any old review. My opinion on this book has sparked an idea for a discussion I'd like to have with you about offensive content in novels. I'd like to know how you react to it. But first, let's get to my review of this book.

This book was written by a very highly acclaimed Australian/Greek author. I have to say, that I admire him and his blatant honesty. And this is the first book I've read of his. I find it hilarious how so many people who have read this book have given it bad reviews and low ratings because they believe that the characters were horrible and the language was horrible and 'why would anyone want to write about such uninteresting people?' It really makes me laugh, because clearly, the people who have these opinions have totally missed the point. Opinions like these, are what I like to call, 'surface opinions.' Surface opinions, as the term suggests, do not attempt to dig any deeper than what can be seen (or read, in this case).

The point of this book, in my opinion, is to highlight the pettiness, cruelness, complete self-centeredness of humankind; the attributes we fail to recognize in ourselves, or deny even exist. We are monsters, people. Deep down there is as much bad as there is good in us and this book depicts this realistically. It's void of censorship, void of phoniness, void of pretence. This book is what it is because this is what the world is. Run by a pack of selfish animals. This is who we are, and I think anyone who denies it, is kidding themselves. Even if you do not actually behave appallingly like some of these characters do, take a moment to think: Have you ever smiled at someone, pretended to be polite, and at the same time cursed at their existence? We all have at some time or another. It's human nature. This is what this book represents: human nature. It's honest. It's blunt. It's real.

Great book. I recommend it to those who are not afraid of a bit of honesty. If you don't like reading about the world you live in. Don't read this book. Now to my question:

How do you feel about offensive content in books? If you are disgusted by it, do you ever stop to think, "Gee, there must be a REASON it's like this?" and try to take an objective stance? And another thing, please, please, please, do not assume that the characters in someone's book represent WHO THE AUTHOR IS. This is a big mistake, I believe, that readers make. The author is most likely trying to depict a certain person, or stereotype. Perhaps the author, too, is disgusted by their characters' behaviour, but they wouldn't do their book any justice by censoring these things, would they? Take a moment to think about that too. Look deeper. And don't make assumptions.


View all my reviews


  1. It's funny but my last blog post was about some books where there were no redeeming qualities to the characters.

    I don't consider any content to be offensive unless it has no bearing on the story. I read or don't read a book based upon how good it is for my tastes.

  2. I think there’s a difference between observing someone being offensive and someone trying to offend you. I’m not easily shocked. I’m a Scot and we’re used to effing and blinding. So films like Reservoir Dogs don’t bother me in the slightest. I did stop watching the documentary The Aristocrats in which a hundred comedians tell the same very, VERY dirty joke (arguably the world’s filthiest joke) not because I was offended but because I don’t enjoy scatological humour very much and after I’d heard the joke a dozen times I’d got the idea. It upset me but it didn’t offend me.

    TV’s can be turned off, books can be closed and people can get up and walk out of cinemas (which I’ve only done once but it was because my sister was offended, not me). I do wonder why people write extreme material, what the attraction is, but I don’t take it personally because it’s not personal. Now if someone started calling my wife names in the street that would be a different matter.

  3. The word "offensive" is entirely subjective. Some things that offend me turn others on, and some things I'm fine with send others into a tailspin. If I find a book intensely unpleasant with regard to content AND I see no overarching reason for that content, I'll probably put it down. If I find it has some redeeming quality, such as challenging and interesting structure or writing I'd like to learn from, a message I can understand and that I find interesting to ponder (even if it's not pleasant to ponder), etc., then I'll most likely continue reading. It really depends on a host of factors and not just some bit of content I find unpleasant. Great post and a great question!

  4. The real world is full of violence, drama, disgusting behaviour, bad language etc etc etc... Turn on your TV and the news can give you your fill of bloodshed and people behaving badly. Of course a writer is going to write about the world as it is. If they sugar coat things they will lose their credibility.
    That said, truly, I can get enough of this sort of thing in real life. I have no desire to read about it for recreation. I have to read the newspaper in order to keep abreast of current events. I have to watch the news for the same reason. I DO NOT have to pick up a book for my relaxing time and find the same garbage that has infested the world there. When I escape into the pages of a book I want it to be just that, an escape.
    So no, not offended by offensive content, just not interested.

  5. Maybe there is an implicit meaning behind it....

  6. Maybe I should care more about it. I don't read many books with extreme profanity but I do like reading Jeremy Clarkson so... I think it's a good question.

  7. I agree with Sarah--it's all relative. I wouldn't like "offensive" for the sake of just having shock value. In any case, fiction is just that, fiction. A novel isn't a "how-to" book on life.

  8. If it makes sense to the characters I can accept most written situations. Though I lean toward gentleness. Violence turns me off, but again, if it makes sense I agree it would be wrong to keep it out of a book. These things happen in real life and they can't be erased, neither should they be in literature.

  9. AS long as it's true to the character, I'm not bothered. I think it's brave for an author to write about that aspect of life.

  10. I don't think I'm offended. At least I've haven't been to date. I mean people can me nasty and I rather read a fictionalize character than run across on one the street. ;)

  11. I've read books all the way to the end, even if I thought the topic was ghastly, if the writing is good. I've also put down books because they bored me to tears, because of the writing. Funnily enough, the two books I'm specifically thinking of had great reviews by people I respect. I'd read the first author again because her writing was spectaular, the second I'll never pick up another one of his books. I gave that book away to someone who loved that writer's style. he loved it. We are all offended by different things.

  12. It's rather had to offend me when it comes to novels. Sure, I will skip over certain segments because they don't interest me, like sex scenes. But it's not so much an offense as a lack of interest. The only actual offensive book I can even think about is from Marquis De Sade. He is notorious for going beyond any limits set. Other than that, haven't seen much that I couldn't handle reading.

  13. Ted hit the nail on the head for me-- I only find "offensive" content offensive if it is unnecessary... If it is germaine to the story, then it is part of story telling.

  14. Well, the series Seinfeld built off offensive, shallow, unlikeable characters for years and it was a hit. I'm not sure the general public really understood how awful the main characters really were until the series finale hit them over the head with the idea.

    I think "offensive" is as much a mob mentality as anything. And it might have nothing to do with good literature or good television. It's all in the eye of the observer.

  15. I don't read too many books that are on the dark side. I prefer lighter/happier books. BUT, I don't think there's a problem with most of the stuff that's written (not hate literature though - I don't think that can be allowed). Everyone is different and there should be lots of choice out there. If someone's offended, they can make the choice to stop reading.

  16. I am not going to read any other comments because I get intimidated when people disagree with me, but I don't like to watch R rated movies, and some pg 13....and I don't like to read books that are like that either. I love Anna Karenina when they simply went into the next room and the wind moved the curtains....of course I am not saying it right, but such a beautiful way....I don't like in my face stuff...

  17. I have a great affinity for people who push the boundaries of good taste to make a point. When they don't really have anything interesting to say, not so much. Same goes for offensive content in books.

  18. A thought provoking post!

    Personally I don't find anything offensive, apart from pornographic sex scenes or the use of the 'C' swear word. But the important thing here is that is just my opinion. I would not leave a bad review just because I found the book to be morally offensive.

    As you say, those who have have missed the point!

    Ellie Garratt

  19. going through college as an English major and then grad school in journalism, I had to look at some pretty awful stuff and find the meaning there. To interpret it either for professors or the public.

    That said, I guess my answer is, "sure. I can read something awful and dig deep to find the message."

    But I don't really like reading books like this for pleasure. You know me. I'm fluffy pink sparkles and taffeta... LOL! Is there kissing???

    No, seriously, in all truth, it depends on the day and how the author's voice draws me in~ :o) <3

  20. I have tended to become in more of the "garbage in, garbage out" mode of thinking. I have always been inclined to not be one who swears and finds offensive language distracting. If a writer is not creative enough to convey a particular type of person without offensive language then that writer is one who I will be unlikely to read.

    A lot of this thinking of mine also comes from just overhearing conversations in public places and from the school kids who pass by my house. I hear profanity just liberally used for no good reason. Things are just casually "fucking this" or "that" and words like "shit" are just all-encompassing nouns to described a collective grouping or some such "shit" as that.

    This degradation of our language to a great extent has come from popular culture--books, music, movies, etc. No wonder so many people are ignorant and vocabularies are so limited.

    I could rant on and on about this topic so maybe I should do it as a post on my blog someday and not go into an epic comment here.

    Good topic though.

    Don't forget to pick up your A to Z Winner's Badge at my site.
    Tossing It Out


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris