“Don’t observe Banned Books Week because a few idiots don’t like The Hunger Games, but instead because our very existence as a free, enlightened society rests on the idea of the flow of information coupled with the skills to understand it.” ~ Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor, The Huffington Post


 “We grow up and we get scared of everything — so much so that we try to censor and restrict real life. But that kind of fear keeps us from evolving.” ~ Jeneé Osterheldt, from The Kansas City Star

Saturday afternoon. Sunny and warmer, 77 degrees.

So I just took the new online quiz, “Which Banned Book Are You”,  and for my first result I was American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis. Then I took it again and changed my answers, and I was Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. As these two are quite different, I thought what the heck, and took it again, trying to go with my first gut response, and . . . wait for it . . . Brave New World again.

Anyway, today marks the end of Banned Books Week, and I just want to take a second away from the reposting and the articles and the quotes to tell you why this particular movement means to much to me:

Reading has always been an important aspect of my life. I began to read at an early age, and I haven’t looked back since. But during some particularly dark periods in my life, I was literally unable to read; the very act of sitting down with a book and concentrating on the words was too much for me. I just couldn’t do it, and so for months on end, I eschewed the very thing that has brought me so much comfort in my life. And then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, the drought ended.

This has happened to me twice, and the fact that I was physically unable to read only made the act of reading so much richer for me once I regained the ability. I simply cannot imagine living in a society in which what I can immerse myself in is dictated by a government or a group, in which someone else decides what is best for my mind to ingest. To me, censorship seems like one of the great evils of a society.

Consider an extreme example most people know: Hitler and the pyres of books he burned. Did his attempts at censorship stop people from reading? No. Did it stop people from writing, from thinking, from discussing? Perhaps outwardly, but try as he might, he was unable to completely quash the human spirit. Witness Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, survivors who went on to write unstintingly about their personal hells.

“Written words running loose have always presented a challenge to people bent on ruling others. In times past, religious zealots burned heretical ideas and heretics with impartiality. Modern tyrannies promote the contentment and obedience of their subjects by ruthlessly keeping troubling ideas out of their books and minds. Censorship can place people in bondage more efficiently than chains.” ~ Time Magazine essay (1981)

If I have my way, my love affair with words will continue until I take my last breath, and until I take that breath, I will continue to buy books for myself and others, to recommend things to read to anyone who asks, to tell anyone who listens about this author or that one. Look, censorship always has the opposite effect, like it or not.

Captain Underpants Banned Book List

Brett’s favorite book series in grade school: The Captain Underpants series was at the top of the American Library Association’s Banned Book List for the second year in a row

You tell someone not to do something, not to see something, not to write something, not to read something? They’ll go to extreme lengths to do exactly what you have forbidden. It’s human nature. Better to ignore something you really loathe; disinterest breeds disinterest . . . sometimes.

We live in a democracy, and for that, we should express our gratitude to the hills, because there are still too many people who don’t have the freedoms we enjoy. We have the right to disagree. We have the right to wear funny clothes. We have the right to tell the president he is wrong. And we cannot be silenced or jailed for exercising these rights.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who makes it through James Joyce is a trooper. Tweens who read Judy Blume aren’t reading about anything that their friends aren’t discussing. Decide for yourself is Ayn Rand is boring or if Catcher in the Rye really is the best thing ever written (she is, and it isn’t, in my opinion). And if you really don’t want your child to read something? That’s your prerogative; just don’t assume that you know what’s best for the world, because frankly? You don’t, and neither do I, and that’s what makes life interesting.

N’est-ce pas?


“To own ‘Mein Kampf,’ to support its right to exist, is not to endorse its awful venality. Rather, it is to recognize that, as Henry Miller once wrote,’[y]ou cannot eliminate an idea by suppressing it.’ This is a notion that, if we face it openly, offers us a vivid freedom — not to do anything, but to do the right thing.” ~ David L. Ulin, LA Times Book Critic, from “The Implications of Banned Book Week”

From Open Culture:

Today, in honor of this year’s Banned Books Week, we bring you free online texts of 14 banned books that appear on the Modern Library’s top 100 novels list. Next to each title, see some of the reasons these books were challenged, banned, or, in many cases, burned.

This staple of high school English classes everywhere seems to mostly get a pass. It did, however, see a 1987 challenge at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC for “language and sexual references.”

Seized and burned by postal officials in New York when it arrived stateside in 1922, Joyce’s masterwork generally goes unread these days because of its legendary difficulty, but for ten years, until Judge John Woolsey’s decision in its favor in 1932, the novel was only available in the U.S. as a bootleg. Ulysses was also burned—and banned—in Ireland, Canada, and England.

Orwell’s totalitarian nightmare often seems like one of the very few things liberals and conservatives can agree on—no one wants to live in the future he imagines. Nonetheless, the novel was challenged in Jackson County, Florida in 1981 for its supposedly “pro-communist” message, in addition to its “explicit sexual matter.”

Again the target of right-wing ire, Orwell’s work was challenged in Wisconsin in 1963 by the John Birch Society, who objected to the words “masses will revolt.” A 1968 New Survey found that the novel regularly appeared on school lists of “problem books.” The reason most often cited: “Orwell was a communist.”

  • Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (Audio)

Vonnegut’s classic has been challenged by parents and school boards since 1973, when it was burned in Drake, North Dakota. Most recently, it’s been removed from a sophomore reading list at the Coventry, RI high school in 2000; challenged by an organization called LOVE (Livingstone Organization for Values in Education) in Howell, MI in 2007; and challenged, but retained, along with eight other books, in Arlington Heights, IL in 2006. In that case, a school board member, “elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on the internet.” Hear Vonnegut himself read the novel here.

London’s most popular novel hasn’t seen any official suppression in the U.S., but it was banned in Italy and Yugoslavia in 1929. The book was burned in Nazi bonfires in 1933; something of a historical irony given London’s own racist politics.

The Nazis also burned Sinclair’s novel because of the author’s socialist views. In 1959, East Germany banned the book as “inimical to communism.”

Lawrence courted controversy everywhere. Chatterly was banned by U.S. customs in 1929 and has since been banned in Ireland (1932), Poland (1932), Australia (1959), Japan (1959), India (1959), Canada (1960) and, most recently, China in 1987 because it “will corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.”

This true crime classic was banned, then reinstated, at Savannah, Georgia’s Windsor Forest High School in 2000 after a parent “complained about sex, violence, and profanity.”

Lawrence endured a great deal of persecution in his lifetime for his work, which was widely considered pornographic. Thirty years after his death, in 1961, a group in Oklahoma City calling itself Mothers Unite for Decency “hired a trailer, dubbed it ‘smutmobile,’ and displayed books deemed objectionable,” including Sons and Lovers.

  • Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs (Audio)

If anyone belongs on a list of obscene authors, it’s Burroughs, which is only one reason of the many reasons he deserves to be read. In 1965, the Boston Superior Court banned Burroughs’ novel. The State Supreme Court reversed that decision the following year. Listen to Burroughs read the novel here.

Poor Lawrence could not catch a break. In one of many such acts against his work, the sensitive writer’s fifth novel was declared obscene in 1922 by the rather unimaginatively named New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.

American literature’s foremost master of melodrama, Dreiser’s novel was banned in Boston in 1927 and burned by the Nazi bonfires because it “deals with low love affairs.”

You can learn much more about the many books that have been banned, suppressed, or censored at the University of Pennsylvania’s “Banned Books Online” page, and learn more about the many events and resources available for Banned Books Week at the American Library Association’s website.

                   

Field of Dreams book banning scene:

                  

Related content:

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Yes, I know. I scheduled the damn thing to publish a day early. Sheesh. What a week . . .


Friday afternoon. Cloudy, muggy, but cooler, 70 degrees.

So I was right about the one thing that I wish I had been wrong about. I am having one of those weak episodes, the kind where moving feels like swimming, lifting anything feels as if I’m trying to hoist 55 gallon drums filled with cement. In other words, blech.

Dreamed last night that my mother and I went to White Castle to get burgers. We found the last one left in the area (I think they’re all gone). She wanted her burger with rice and greens on top, and I just didn’t understand that combination. Years ago when I worked at the newspaper, there was a White Castle a few streets over and the woman on the grill had been there for years. She could cook a mean burger.

Oh well. Here, have some leftovers . . .

Are you a feminist

Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman

None of your kind wanted . . .

Photo: Well this is sure to get the goatee of some.

Look closely . . .

I’ve finally found my spirit animal . . .

Speaking of koalas . . . I don’t know if I’m more intrigued by the photos or the caption accompanying them:

A Koala reflecting on his sins, his triumphs, and the inevitability of death.

This is a thing:

 Moon rabbit, Taoyuan, Taiwan (2014) by Florentijn Hofman

Here, have a little happiness:

There aren’t enough palms to smack enough faces for this one:

Photo: Must not be a writing opportunity.

Say what?

Mutually Exclusive?

Come again?

That liberal lie: Climate Change

Wi-Fi Wars . . .

How cool are these?

Ghost-it notes for highlighting without defacing the book

This is important. Lava Mae is fundraising for their second bus. Go here for more information:

“Books were safer than people anyway.” ~ Neil Gaiman, from The Ocean at the End of the Lane


“I do believe that in order to be a writer—to grow and learn and create art—one must read. Read widely. Read whatever makes your heart sing. Learn to be a watchful reader. And in the moments when you need reading for the pure pleasure of it, seek out pleasure the way I seek out doughnuts when I’m having a bad day. (Which is to say, with unwavering determination.)” ~ Dana Staves, from To Write, You Must Read

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy, humid, 70 degrees.

I’m not sure if I’m getting my fall cold, or if I’m on the cusp of one of those weak spells during which I am too taxed to walk to the kitchen, but something is worrying me on the fringes, and I just can’t pinpoint it. Just overall achiness, migraine aside, and a scratchy throat.

After spending a bit here and on tumblr, I’ll probably retreat to the safety of my bed and read a book. At least the dogs will be happy.

Last evening I got a delivery from Amazon, and for the first time, the packaging was crap: I had ordered some pill treat pockets for the dogs, and that package was open, and the roll of packing paper that I had ordered and which they had thrown in the box with everything else, was greasy. My vitamins were open, and overall, it was a mess. Amazon is usually great at overpackaging—sending one tiny thing in a big padded envelope, so I was really surprised at this mess.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on hold for a representative who was fixing the problem, but it was fixed without issue. Say what you will about Amazon being this behemoth that railroads smaller companies, but their customer service is excellent. Anyway, I got the packing paper so that I can start to take things off the walls and box them away as Brett has promised to help me sand and paint, and there are far too many prints and pictures in the way.

“There will always be non-readers, bad readers, lazy readers—there always were. Reading is a majority skill but a minority art. Yet nothing can replace the exact, complicated, subtle communion between absent author and entranced, present reader . . . When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it.” ~ Julian Barnes, from “Julian Barnes: my life as a bibliophile” (The Guardian, 29 June 2012)

So much to do before we can even consider putting this house on the market. I try not to dwell on how badly our lives were scarred in so many areas when we were living on just my disability and Corey’s sometime unemployment during those long, hard three years. But it’s hard not to be bitter. We had to let so many things go by the wayside, and now we’re paying the price.

Ah, life. Always such a challenge.

Anyway, here’s a continuation on this week’s theme:

From the Banned Books Week site:

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 307 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2013, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2013 were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

For more information on Banned Books Week, click here.

The sponsors of Banned Books Week would like to give special thanks the Association of American Publishers, DKT Liberty Project, Penguin Random House, and Perseus Books Group for their additional support in 2014.

                   

Music by The Glitch Mob, “Between Two Points” (featuring Swan)

It’s that time again . . .

Banned Books Week September 21-27, 2014

“Our most basic freedom in a democratic society is our first amendment right of the freedom to read,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “Banned Books Week is an opportunity for all of us – community residents, librarians, authors and educators – to stand together protecting this fundamental right for everyone and for future generations. We can never take this precious right for granted.”

Monday night, late. No idea what the weather is like at this moment . . .

It’s Banned Books Week, and you know how I feel about that. I found the wonderful poem by Robert Morgan below, and it really touched a nerve for me. You see, I taught myself to read with Superman comic books. My dad got so tired of me wanting him to read to me all of the time that he told me that I should learn to read for myself. I was four.

Anyway, I don’t care what your background is, who you are, what color you are, what your country of origin is—reading is one of the most powerful tools in the world. Reading is knowledge, and the idea that there are books and comics that should not be read for whatever reason just slays me. You see, I have seen illiteracy up close. It’s ugly, very ugly.

So if I young child comes to you with a book or comic and asks you to read it, don’t say no. Never say no. It doesn’t matter if you like it. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it. Words can save us all. Do not deny anyone that access.

Read to your children. Read to your siblings. Read to your grandchildren, your nieces, your nephews, your neighbors. You want to make this a better world? Read to someone, and then, teach them to read for themselves.

More later. Peace.

Important Links:

                   

Funny Books

Because my parents had denied
me comic books as sordid and
salacious, I would sneak a look
at those of friends, the bold and bright
slick covers, pages rough as news
and inked in pinks and greens and blues
as cowboys shouted in balloons
and Indian yells were printed on
the clouds. I borrowed books and hid
them in the crib and under shoes
and under bed. The glories of
those hyperbolic zaps and screams
were my illuminated texts,
the chapbook prophets of forbidden
and secret art, the narratives
of quest and conquest in the West,
of Superman and Lash Larue.
The print and pictures cruder than
the catalog were sweeter than
the cake at Bible School. I crouched
in almost dark and swilled the words
that soared in their balloons and bulbs
of grainy breath into my pulse,
into the stratosphere of my
imagination, reaching Mach
and orbit speed, escape velocity
just at the edge of Sputnik’s age,
in stained glass windows of the page.

~ Robert Morgan

                    

Music by Greg Holden, “The Lost Boy”