On page 45 of Paying For It, Chester Brown’s graphic memoir—in the sense of a graphic novel, not in the sense of being explicit, though it is also sometimes that—about paying for sex, there is a cloud of grey dots where a condommed penis should be. This is surprising, not only because Brown’s book is a sexual memoir, but also because it is otherwise full of uncensored nudity, or, more precisely, of minimalist line-drawings of unclothed people.
Communist Vietnam is to ban bloggers and social media users from sharing news stories online, under a new decree seen as a further crackdown on online freedom.
Blogs or social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter — which have become hugely popular over the last few years in the heavily-censored country — should only be used “to provide and exchange personal information”, according to the decree.
Mo Yan, China’s first Nobel laureate for literature, has been greeted with some extraordinary hostility in the west. This week Salman Rushdie described him as a “patsy” for the Chinese government. According to the distinguished sinologist Perry Link, “Chinese writers today, whether ‘inside the system’ or not, all must choose how they will relate to their country’s authoritarian government.” And, clearly, Mo Yan has not made the right choice, which is to range himself as an outspoken “dissident” against his country’s authoritarian regime.
But doesn’t the “writer’s imagination” also conflict with the “imagination of the state” in a liberal capitalist democracy? This was broadly the subject that John Updike was asked to speak on at a PEN conference in New York in 1986. Updike delivered – to what Rushdie, also in attendance, described as a “considerably bewildered audience of world writers” – a paean to the blue mailboxes of the US Postal Service, which, he marvelled, took away his writings with miraculous regularity and brought him cheques and prizes in return.