Taboo Topics in Novels

I am currently reading a book called "Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness" by Jennifer Tseng in which she writes about a middle aged woman who becomes involved with a high school boy. Of course this sounds sick, but the elegance of Tseng’s words almost make you forget the strange nature of their relationship. It would be interesting if someone could explore the influence of writing and style on taboo topics that make readers less offended or that make it possible to sit through a book like this and enjoy it. I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult and I know she often tip toes on boundaries as well, if you wanted to explore more than one author.

  • Spoiler alert* A mainstream example to use would be Game of Thrones. Reading about the Lannisters and hearing things from Cersei's POV makes people more understanding as to why her and Jaime resorted to incest (which is a highly taboo thing, made almost worse because they are twins). Not to mention characters who do awful things are not always punished, seen in the Mountain winning against the Dorne Prince in a duel, getting to kill the fan favorite fighter while admitting to raping his sister and slaughtering her children. It's awful but I'm sure some people were amused at how badass the execution of the death made the Mountain seem, and then he gets to be reborn through his injuries as a Frankenstein-like character. There are so many corrupt characters it's hard not to be compelled to favor some of them. – Slaidey 9 years ago
  • I have found that not being too crass or graphic with the writing helps readers accept the taboo topic. – Nocturna32 9 years ago
  • I can't help but think of Mortal Instruments, where it is briefly believed that the main character and the love interest are siblings... and they still love each other romantically. – SpectreWriter 9 years ago
  • One of the prime examples I can think of is Middlesex, which has become a pretty high-profile book despite it discussing some very taboo topics in great detail (puberty, lesbian sex between minors, and incest, to name a few). To a certain extent I think these books become popular because readers are curious about the topics, but get embarrassed to read about them unless they're wrapped up in an artistic, literary package. – Grace Maich 9 years ago
  • While more manga-based I read "Bunny Drop" which explored love between relatives, in this case a man and his young half-sister. In Japanese culture in general their is a trend of relationships like this (Ghibli's "From up on Poppy Hill" etc.) which like to straddle the line of "we could be brother/sister and lovers but there's a side way out!" and then find a way to avoid being completely controversial. A good side to explore is the public (whether American or international) opinion on literature with incest and other taboo subjects as part of a story of fiction. What is it that makes authors and editors so afraid to go the whole nine yards? Has this always been the case and which novels have shone through which have been far more controversial? Also are taboo topics used more as a source of generating interest? (Monty Python's "Life of Brian" used the taboo of poking fun at events from the bible to get notoriety and sell much better.) Anyways, just a few ideas that might help in looking at the topic. Interesting choice also of the words "of course this sounds sick", that very sentence sums up the generalisation being explored here. – smartstooge 9 years ago

Want to write about Writing or other art forms?

Create writer account