Before the inevitable cries of "censorship!" drown out all discussion, we would like to register applause for Simon & Schuster's decision to pull a book back from publication because it is disgusting.
Due to appear on bookstore shelves in December, "American Psycho" is the latest novel by 26-year-old best-selling author Bret Easton Ellis. Simon & Schuster announced last week that it had canceled publication. Company chairman Richard Snyder said the decision was his.
Snyder called it a matter of taste. The book is about a serial killer specializing in the torture and elaborate dismemberment of animals, children, beggars and especially women. Pre-release reviews describing some horrific passages came to Snyder's attention. He decided his company shouldn't put its name on such a work.
Far from regarding this choice as a harbinger of neo-Fascist thought control, we welcome it as an act of corporate responsibility.
Nor do we shed any tears for the author, who reportedly will keep his $300,000 advance. Lesser publishers are no doubt already vying for the chance to make a buck off a book that is both gross and infamous.
So be it. Something still will be gained if Simon & Schuster helps make perversion and violence unfashionable. Normal Americans were properly taken aback by the 2 Live Crew controversy. That rap group's album "As Nasty as They Wanna Be," ruled obscene in several jurisdictions, celebrates in the coarsest terms the brutal mangling of women for sexual pleasure. That this work could sell 1.7 million copies, mostly for the young to dance to, is shocking.
A reaction against such poison is inevitable. We hope Simon & Schuster's squeamishness becomes all the rage and even catches on with record companies, movie makers and TV producers.
Admittedly, it's hard to imagine contemporary popular culture voluntarily governed by good taste. But then a generation ago it was impossible to conceive of sadism as mainstream entertainment. The least we can do is cheer a simple act of sanity.