Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:08 AM
I'll go on the record as saying that yes, stuff like the description of Gregor's rapes DID make me feel uncomfortable, and when I was reading the fifth book, I actually had to put it aside a few times when reading about Ramsay's exploits... but i LIKE this. It's awful, just unconscionably awful, from a moral standpoint, but... I'm not reading the books for tutelage in ethics, I'm reading them to take away a powerful aesthetic experience, and from the standpoint of aesthetics, good lord, what an experience that an author can make me feel not just jubilation and other positive emotions, but also sadness and deep physical discomfort.
It's a judgment call that each reader has to make for themselves, but for me personally, I feel like the effort Martin has put into building his world, and the fact that he makes virtually every single person, down to the most tertiary innkeeper, seem like a real, fully realized human, absolves him of any accusations of sensationalism. I would consider a work sensationalist if it showed me images of uncomfortable violence tacked onto a paper-thin world with weak two-dimensional characters. For example, I was offended by the "baby scene" in one of those "Human Centipede" movies for this reason; I didn't feel the work had "bought" the right to show me something like that. By contrast, I've been reading David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" the last month or so, and the other night as I was reading in bed, I reached this chapter that was just plain horrible in what it depicted, to the extent of making me feel anxious; I had to struggle not to just skip past the pages. Ultimately, I didn't sleep at all that night, and felt kind of deflated and depressed much of the next day... and I loved it, because "Infinite Jest" is an amazing book!
Anyway, I know this is a fully subjective stance on the matter, but in my mind, Martin has done things in a way that justifies the inclusion of elements like this; their awfulness seems *powerful* to me, rather than gratuitous.