Modern Australian

Books in a post-f@#^ world. Are we all sworn out yet?

  • Written by Donna Mazza, Senior Lecturer in Creative Arts, Edith Cowan University

Warning: this piece features frequent coarse language that may offend some readers.

Since Adam Mansbuch’s 2011 bestseller, Go the Fuck to Sleep, book titles have been swearing profusely to grab audience attention. The author followed up on the winning formula with You Have to Fucking Eat and Fuck, Now There Are Two of You.

Book covers compete with a barrage of information and images, so it’s no wonder many writers resort to shock tactics. It works. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is testament to this, selling 2 million copies and translated into 25 languages. Without the “Fuck” this would very likely have been a different story.

Books in a post-f@#^ world. Are we all sworn out yet? Microcosm Presumably hoping to ride on the back of this success, upcoming releases include Fuck Happiness and The Middle Finger Project. In the English language, at least, fuck and other words on the more extreme end of profanity are the last frontier of using language to shock. In 2020, we find ourselves in a place of extremes so they come in quite handy. But with so many fucks on book covers, where do writers go from here to express our fear, horror, rage and disgust? Heard it all before Eventually we become desensitised to the overuse of words. Shit, a taboo for older generations, is now so lacking as an obscenity it is written on the covers of notebooks and pencil cases available in stationery chain stores popular with schoolchildren, such as Typo. According to a 2019 ABC study of 1,538 subjects, Australians are seeing and hearing more coarse language than they did five years ago, both in the media and in public. “In line with this normalisation of coarse language, concerns relating to the use of coarse language in the media have diminished over time,” the study found. Of people studied, 38% were offended by coarse language on TV, radio or the internet in 2019, compared with 47% in 2011. Go the Fuck to Sleep grabbed the attention of parents worldwide.Tennis, one of the last bastions of politeness, does constant battle with players like Nick Kyrgios who rack up massive fines for dropping the F-bomb on the court. Fines, like detention, seem to be on the train that has left the station when you consider reputable online booksellers currently carry almost a hundred books with fuck in the title. Most of these are self-help books, because we are, obviously, quite fucked and need help, and cookbooks, such as Yumi Stynes’ The Zero Fucks Cookbook. Kitchens seem to be a hotbed of fucks, a trend set some time ago by Gordon Ramsay. Meaning and language are in a constant evolution and can act as a moral barometer. Expressing the fears and horrors of her times 200 years ago, author Mary Shelley created a “fiend”, formed through “unspeakable” horrors. Some initially derided the work as “disgusting”, but the extremes of her Frankenstein left an impact on literature and society of mythic proportions, without resorting to profanity or cheap tricks. She left the unspeakable to our imaginations, yet it broke boundaries and challenged our understanding of life and human nature. Books in a post-f@#^ world. Are we all sworn out yet? Penguin In 1959, the unabridged edition of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published with several instances of fuck. The edition was banned. In 1963, fuck was included in the Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, triggering complaints to schools, libraries and the police. Taboos and standards are forever in flux and younger generations always seek a boundary to break through. In our times of consumption and greed, we are eating our way through those boundaries at a great rate, along with as many of the Earth’s resources as we possibly can. What now? Several hundred book covers later, fuck is completely worn out. Sure, there is still coarser language that will work for a few years until it also becomes a meme; until we wear it out as a book title or, perhaps, if we think too hard about what it means and how we might use it. Books in a post-f@#^ world. Are we all sworn out yet? Hardie Grant Language can only evolve creatively with a dynamic culture, deep education and critical practitioners of the literary arts, within and outside of the academy. Words are weapons; they are our way of making sense of life and without them we are unspeakable. Language and how we use it really matters. It creates knowledge, culture and community. If we are to navigate our way through the future and avoid reaching a place of anarchy, we need a language for it. Resorting to coarse language on book covers could be a symptom of society’s collective misery, but it could also be attributable to the starvation of the arts by government and a desperate need to grab readers’ attention. If literature loses the power to shock then it loses an important mode of engagement, according to postcritical theorist Rita Felski. It’s enough to make you want to swear and curse and scream. Unfortunately, as a word to save for extremes, we have really fucked up fuck. Donna Mazza’s new novel has an f-word in the title but it’s Fauna.

Authors: Donna Mazza, Senior Lecturer in Creative Arts, Edith Cowan University

Read more https://theconversation.com/books-in-a-post-f-world-are-we-all-sworn-out-yet-130948

NEWS

Australians are moving home less. Why? And does it matter?

K.A.Willis/ShutterstockAustralians are among the most mobile populations in the world. More than 40% of us change address every five years, about twice the global average. Yet the level of internal...

travel writing from the home

James Hammond/UnsplashBeing in isolation might be a great time to try something new. In this series, we get the basics on hobbies and activities to start while you’re spending more...

how Antarctica recorded a 20.75°C day last month

While the world rightfully focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, the planet is still warming. This summer’s Antarctic weather, as elsewhere in the world, was unprecedented in the observed record. Our...

our war with the environment is leading to pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world is a crisis of our own making.That’s the message from infectious disease and environmental health experts, and from those in planetary health –...

Scary red or icky green? We can't say what colour coronavirus is and dressing it up might feed fears

ShutterstockImages of the latest coronavirus have become instantly recognisable, often vibrantly coloured and floating in an opaque background. In most representations, the shape of the virus is the same –...

The government's coronavirus mobile app is a solid effort, but it could do even better

ShutterstockThe Australian government has launched an app offering up-to-date advice and information on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Australia app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play, was...

The challenges and benefits of outdoor recreation during NZ's coronavirus lockdown

During New Zealand’s four-week lockdown, all sporting facilities, back-country walking trails and parks are closed to stop the spread of coronavirus and avoid injuries.But New Zealanders have high participation rates...

Australia's $130 billion JobKeeper payment: what the experts think

ShutterstockThe A$130 billion payment will be benefit six million of Australia’s 13 million employees through their employers. It will ensure each employee kept on in a business that has lost...

The key to the success of the $130 billion wage subsidy is retrospective paid work

The secret sauce in the government’s A$130 billion JobKeeper payment is that it will be retrospective, in the best possible way.It’ll not only go to employers who have suffered losses...

Is your mental health deteriorating during the coronavirus pandemic? Here's what to look out for

ShutterstockMedicare-subsidised psychology and psychiatry sessions, as well as GP visits, can now take place via phone and video calls – if clinicians agree not to charge patients out-of-pocket costs for...

In the fight against coronavirus, antivirals are as important as a vaccine. Here's where the science is up to

ShutterstockWhile many scientists are working on developing a coronavirus vaccine, others are busy testing antiviral drugs.Vaccines are generally only effective when administered prior to infection, but antiviral agents are important...

$1500 a fortnight JobKeeper wage subsidy in massive $130 billion program

The Morrison government will provide a flat $1,500 a fortnight JobKeeper payment per employee for businesses to retain or rehire nearly six million workers, in a massive $130 billion six-month...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Honeymoon Planning: 6 Tips for Creating the Trip of Your LifetimeEffective and Time-Saving Fitness Tips Every Working Mom NeedsSafety First: Tips & Tricks for Your First Road Trip8 Essential Woodworking Tools You Need in Your ArsenalThe Future of Gambling Sponsorship in Australia5 Common First Aid CoursesSafety Tips for Operating Your Wood HeaterANZ Access Advantage card reviewBeyond Beauty - 5 Ways Cosmetic Procedures Can Improve More Than Just Your AppearanceHow to Make Extra Cash From Your AssetsThis can help you regulate the temperature in your bedroomI’m A Nutritionist And This Is The Food I Eat EverydayHow To Get The Best Hotel Experience And Save MoneyTips for new driversSEVEN WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR VISION