I sometimes get books at the Goodwill because I read a lot and I can get trade paperbacks there for fifty cents. I often use this as an excuse to read outside my normal tastes, figuring I can spend fifty cents on almost anything. I was actually pleased to find a decent condition copy of War Trash by Ha Jin in this way, so I grabbed it. To the previous owner though, I have to say: What the hell?
I didn’t notice that there was writing in the book when I got it. I can accept that though, especially for fifty cents. Used copies are going to have some notes in them sometimes, and some underlining.
However, the previous owner of this copy of War Trash felt the need to scribble out every curse word in the book.
Seriously, what the hell? Was this person so much of of a swear nazi that he or she really had to scribble out all the curse words? Literally, every one. Even ‘damn’ and ‘Jesus’ (used as an expletive and not to refer to the religious personage). Do curse words offend this person that much? He or she felt called to censor Ha Jin?
Why were they even reading in the first place if he or she objected so much? Maybe he or she had to read the book as an assignment, I don’t know. Even if he or she felt the need to deface literature in this way (and keep in mind that he or she had already seen the word before scribbling it out), why then donate it? The book is insulted at that point; it’s merely going to make a less unreasonable reader angry.
Believe me, War Trash is a novel about Korean war POW camps. The few swear words that are there BELONG there.
Besides, I could still tell what the scribbled out word was. The context revealed, as well as various things like holding the page up to light, scribbled word length, or an occasional piece of a letter that the scribbling idiot missed. This person managed to do nothing other than make me angry that he or she wants to foist his or her views off onto someone else.
I mean, want to deface your own book to censor a writer who most likely knows better than you? Fine. Your copy, do what you like. But why then pass the book into the unknowing hands of someone else? Once I started already I went ahead and kept reading, but I wouldn’t have wanted that copy if I’d known beforehand.
Not even for fifty cents.
I didn’t want even that much connection to the sort of person who would do that. I would have gone out and bought a different copy instead. Even a new one at full price.
I still can’t believe someone would do something like this.