If Board of Review Chair Don Mathieson had had his way, Into The River would have been R18. It would then be illegal for anyone, whether parent, guardian, or teacher, to provide it to someone under the age of 18. Your smiling censor is pictured below, receiving the ONZM in 2012.
Is Into The River on the syllabus for any Intro to NZ Literature courses at New Zealand universities?
If it is, and if Mathieson had had his way, lecturers in those intro courses would have had to have pulled the book from the syllabus. It’s not uncommon to find 17 year olds in first year courses. If any 17 year olds were in the course, you couldn’t assign anything about the book without requiring somebody commit an illegal act. Sure, this stuff is rarely enforced, and it’s hard to imagine a prosecution for a university library or bookstore giving a copy of an assigned text to a student. But completing the course requirements would require that someone commit an illegal act.
How did we wind up in a situation where either the OFL or its review board can make it illegal for a 17 year old to be given a book that is legal for adults to possess, regardless of whether the book is supplied by a parent, guardian, or teacher?
The original OFL review was really rather reasonable. They wrote: (HT: Edgeler)
There are many other novels widely available without restriction in New Zealand with similar sexual descriptions of an equivalent nature, many of them literary classics and coming of age novels, or popular fiction phenomena in their own right. This would make a restriction on Into The River arbitrary and unfair. It would create a widespread inconsistency in conditions of access to books of this nature.
I wonder what would happen if OFL were asked to review a couple hundred books meeting this description, with all of their reasonable decisions appealed to Mathieson’s board. Would the stink get so great that somebody decides to fix the system? Or would we just be stuck with a stinkier system?
Might it possibly make sense that we have someone with less than a half-century between himself and the targets of his regulation heading up this kind of review board?
Mathieson also is the editor of a book on applying Christianity in the workplace. I wonder what his review board would say about selected bible chapters.