Amazon.com: the world’s largest bookstore and literature’s most powerful decision-maker. They seem to have now assumed the position of the Minister of Cultural and Judge of Public Decency… but is this business powerhouse capable of justice in the domain of Art & Culture? It appears so, as they have just banished a work of literature from their Kindle Store with the accusation that it is “Erotica”
France-based, American literary-fiction author, Roman Payne, and his publisher, Aesthete Press, have been tried, judged, and convicted in the past few days, (without defense permissible), of publishing a novel of “Erotica.” The content of the novel, which critics agree is nowhere near erotic, is not the question. The question is the cover of the book, which displays two identical naked representations (sculptures) of a nude woman. This cover is hardly racy compared to other books that Amazon categorizes as “Classics,” “Literary-Fiction” or others of a more respected nature.
Amazon’s Kindle team has already condemned his novel, The Wanderess, to the category of “Erotica.” And they refuse to budge. Up until today, the book was available on Kindle with an Adult-Warning” attached. Now, the Kindle book is no longer for sale anywhere on Amazon.
Payne who comments, “I have absolutely nothing against Erotica, although it is not my art. I am a literary-fiction author, pure and simple,” declares that he refuses to be listed on Amazon or anywhere else under the heading “Erotica.” Amazon responded to this refusal in writing to tell him that he has no choice: “The cover image of your book contains mature content, and therefore won’t surface in our general product search,” they wrote, and added that if he couldn’t accept the label of “Erotica,” he would be forced to be removed from Amazon’s Kindle Store.
“The damage has already been done,” wrote Payne before today’s removal, “My publisher and I have been refused on multiple occasions, (and I have written proof of this), to have my novel publicized by press agencies on the basis that these agencies ‘will not publicize erotica.’ These missed opportunities have cost me a lot. […] What I expect for the near-future? I will refuse the label of “Erotica” and my book will be removed from Kindle, and possibly from Amazon USA altogether.”
Just what is acceptable in 2014 to show to citizens of all ages when it comes to art? Of course there are modern modes of flagrant expression that should be reserved for adults. But what about the classics? Marble sculptures of nudes, for example… for one, they are not photographic nudes, but only artistic representations; secondly, they have to be shown to all people in real life (for the very reason that these sculptures are in public gardens, public squares, public museums)? Why are these same sculptures not allowed on the covers of mainstream books?
Novelist, Roman Payne—who emigrated to France in 1999 and has ever since lived in Paris—had high hopes for The Wanderess (his fifth novel), which he considers “his first great masterpiece.” The Wanderess is a poetic, literary-fiction love-story about “two lost souls” vagabonding in Europe where they search for a mysterious “fortune” as well as things they’ve lost in this world. Payne, who before finding success as a novelist worked as a graphic designer, used a marble statue of a nude woman as a model to create an extremely compelling book cover. The finished cover doesn’t show frontal nudity, and it doesn’t show full backside nudity (the buttocks are concealed and an arm conceals the breasts).
“Amazon’s decision not only surprised me, it blew my mind completely!” said Payne, “I’ve always tried to ignore the puritanical label people put on America. In France, where I live, nudity showing the naked breasts and backsides of women are used in the posters that advertise health & beauty products on the windows of pharmacies and perfumeries. And this is real-body nudity—not representations such as sculpture. Yes, I was and am mystified by Amazon’s reaction.” A curious coincidence is that Payne and Amazon have a reason to share similar values: they are both from Seattle.
Payne and his publisher are asking for readers opinion of this. Please log-in to the active discussion at culturalbook.com. Payne is also happy to provide interviews on the subject. To request an interview, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.