So I'm reading the book Choke right now, by Chuck Palahniuk. And then I go to smoke a cigarette and start mentally casting a theoretical movie version (it may not be the most original thought, but Edward Norton would really kick ass as Victor Mancini, even if he isn't Italian). And it occurs to me that this book will never, ever be made into a movie. The main character is a recovering sex addict. The funniest bit so far involved simulated rape. No movie studio is going to be interested in telling people about smearing semen on the flaps of deposit envelopes at ATMs.

Which is a damn shame, because it's a pretty good book. And this got me to thinking about why, exactly, movies and television and video games and damn near everything gets censored more than books. Yes, those other media are far more visual, and thus possibly more offensive, but it is frequently far easier (and more effective) to present, explain, glamorize "unacceptable" behavior on the page than on the screen. And don't talk to me about the economics involved in producing a book versus producing other forms of expression - it doesn't make that much of a difference, especially when you consider economies of scale.

The real reason is this: as it stands in the world today, books are not a mass medium. Far, far, far more people watch the average movie than read the average book. Even books that are required reading in schools across the country, even they still don't get seen as much as any given episode of Friends. Books are an underground medium, and not in the bullshit hipster sense, but in the sense that virtually the only people who see them are the ones that already want to.

This is why people can say anything they want in books. This is why something like Choke, or like Heather Has Two Mommies or 1984 gets published as they are. The don't have mass appeal, and they don't have to, because the masses aren't paying attention. Once something gets big, it has to be sanitized. Can I call them denominators if we have nothing in common?

See also: Metallica.
See also: Sugar Ray.
See also: The Tick.
See also: 1984.

And people talk about how amazing reading can be, and how it's so much better when your ideas don't come pre-chewed, and how text is one of the only places anything remotely revolutionary is happening anymore. And they're all very right. And this could happen to books. All it would take is a hundred million readers.

So yeah. Trying to get random people to start reading is like inviting a bedwetter to your pool party. At the very least, be selective about it.

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