“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:

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Marianne von Werefkin Schneewirbel 1915

“Schneewirbel” (1915, oil on cardboard)
by Marianne von Werefkin


“My pen was idle for a long time, perhaps only because the words found it difficult to cross the hostile space of the minute where man is without memory, where life hangs on a thread, a breath.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions Volumes 2 and 3: The Book of Yukel Return to the Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Sunday evening. Partly cloudy and very mild, 76 degrees.

First, I want to welcome those of you who have recently subscribed to my blog. Thanks ever so much.

Marianne von Werfkin Nuit Fantastique, c1910

“Nuit Fantastique” (c1910)
by Marianna von Werefkin

However, I feel I might have done you a disservice. In normal years (whatever those are), my posts are mostly written by me about, well, me, my life, my family, my foibles. This year has been quite different. After my mother’s death in January, I never seemed to be able to get back into my writing groove, and as a result, my posts are frequently reblogs of articles I find interesting, silly/funny Friday leftovers, and lots of poems and art, with very little of what is actually me in between.

So if you’ve hitched a ride onto my fading star because my blog seems to be more about being entertaining than being about musings, I sincerely apologize for how I plan to change things: I’m going to try to write more and reblog less. You see, even I have grown tired of my rabbit trails here and there, almost everywhere but where I need to be, by which I mean inside my head, sifting and culling thoughts and ideas and generally opining to my heart’s content. I do plan to keep my Friday leftovers and my Two for Tuesday poems, but aside from that, I’m going to begin the last quarter of this year trying to do more of what I need to do: create, write, actually think about things, ponder the relationships between words and phrases, and with any luck, I might be able to recapture some of what I think I have lost recently.

“I shall never know why
Our lives took a turn for the worse, nor will you” ~ Mark Strand, from “The Man in the Tree”

Anyway . . .

This past week has been quite an endurance test for me: I ended up watching Olivia every day from last Saturday through Thursday, with only one night off. Circumstances in my daughter’s household kind of imploded, and out of respect for their privacy, I shall not delve into details except to say that I was left reeling, and I felt that volunteering to watch le bébé was the best way in which I could help everyone muddle through.

Marianne von Werefkin Autumn paren School 1909

“Autumn (School)” (1907, tempera on paper)
by Marianne von Werefkin

You all know that I love Olivia beyond words, but boy is my tired body not up to the challenge of keeping up with a very curious, very active two-year-old. Add to that the challenge of buckets of stress causing my insomnia to rear its ugly head, and the sleep deprivation coupled with the very full days and nights resulted in a physical and mental meltdown for me, one that I couldn’t really share with anyone.

And in between I had to deal with trying to get Brett to the DMV to get his license before ODU starts, finding out that it’s going to cost an arm and a leg to switch around plates on vehicles, and trying to finalize the whole Social Security thing. Not to mention surviving the day on which Brett’s tail lights decided to all die at the same time, ending up with us looking for shade under which I could try to splice wires and change out bulb harnesses (which I did, but it didn’t work).

Man.

Hence, no real posts for the past few days, and more than the usual level of stress and anxiety. My only respite was my evening bath with a backdrop of my blues playlist and a chilled wine spritzer.

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that’s all we have—to hold on tight until the dawn.” ~ Gregory David Roberts, from Shantaram

Thankfully, the week ended much better than it began, with the exception of my pain management appointment on Friday, better known as the pain management appointment that didn’t happen. Yep that medical group that has been playing havoc with my body since March of this year finally ended our relationship on a bruising note: I showed up for a Friday appointment at an office that had shifted to Portsmouth in the middle of the month, and apparently, I was told this . . . not.

Marianne von Werefkin Le Chioffonnier 1917 tempera on paper

“Le Shioffonnier” (1917, tempera on paper)
by Marianne von Werefkin

They asked me at 2:20 if I wanted to try to drive to Portsmouth for the 2:40 appointment, to which I replied a resounding no as I do not do Portsmouth. My driving relationship with Portsmouth is not the best as I have yet to enter that city and find any location without first getting lost, so I knew that to try to make an appointment that was 20 minutes from the time I stepped into the defunct beach office was impossible.

Two things happened as a result: First, I was finally given the contact information for the pain management doctor who left the practice in March, you know, the one who I adore, the one who actually makes my back and head feel better, the first one in quite a while who actually listens to me (this information for which I have been begging everyone and anyone with whom I had any contact). Yep, he has opened his own practice, and I finally have the phone number (can I get a hallelujah?)

Second, when asked if I wanted to reschedule, I replied, “No. I’ll be seeing Dr. X from now on.” And I carried my weary, achy body out the door and to the nearest Target, where I spent at least an hour looking at makeup and nail polish that I didn’t need, but I felt better afterwards, nevertheless.

“. . . I recognize the lazy
murmur of August, the carmine of the sea.” ~ Eugénio de Andrade, from “You Are Where My Gaze Begins”

So tomorrow is Corey’s birthday, and he’s spending it on the ship. However, he will be home on Wednesday, and we plan to have a family dinner in honor of his and Brett’s birthdays, neither of which we were able to celebrate. I’m so looking forward to his homecoming, even though he’ll only be home for two weeks this time so that his schedule can finally be synced with his other crew mates who are going to be on the new ship.

Marianne von Werefkin House with Lantern c1913 tempera on cardboard

“House with Lantern” (c1913, tempera on cardboard)
by Marianne von Werefkin

I can tell by his voice that he’s tired, but at least it hasn’t been six weeks this time, which was unbearable for both of us. Now that his sister Alana has had her baby, and we know that everyone is fine and healthy, I think that takes care of one of his major worries. And now that the situation with Alexis seems to have been resolved for the time-being, that is another thing he can stop fretting over.

It’s so hard for him when things are troublesome at home and he is away, and I try not to dump anything on him if I can help it as his focus needs to be on his job when he’s out there. Unfortunately, I am horrible at hiding pain in my voice, no matter how I try. It goes both ways, though. I can read him just as easily from a thousand miles as if he were across the room. It’s that double-edged sword of loving someone completely, which is good, but loving them so completely that hiding anything is impossible, which can be bad.

Oh well . . .

“What would become of us if everything that happens out there were quite clear to us?” ~ Erich Maria Remarque, from All Quiet on the Western Front

Look, I never said this was going to be a deep post, or a moving post, just a real post. I’m working on it. Okay? It’s a process . . .

So I’m trying to begin this week by getting my groove back, as it were (but not as Stella did). I also plan to try to write something to Mari, and to get caught up on paperwork. Okay. Maybe too much for one week, but we’ll just have to see how I do, won’t we?

I do have to say that in recent weeks/months I’ve accumulated a plethora of quotes, art, and songs, so much so that I have about 20 drafts ready to go; I just need to fill them in with my words (just that one minor detail). Additionally, I have that post about Robin Williams that I began about ten days ago, and I do want to finish that, for a number of personal reasons. So let’s just say that I have a loose game plan, and I in coming days I need to remind myself that I’m the only one hanging deadlines over my head, proverbial swords of Damocles, as it were.

Marianne von Werefkin Moonlit Landscape 1907 mixed media on cardboard

“Moonlit Landscape” (1907, mixed media on cardboard)
by Marianne von Werefkin

At the moment, I really need shots from my neck to my butt, and everything in between. I need botox for my migraines, and I need a vacation, but for now I’ll settle for the first two (sometime in the next few weeks, oh please, oh please) with plans for the third some time next year.

I will tell you this: Corey and I might have a short road trip planned to look at some property somewhere in the western part of the state. That’s all that I’ll say about that for now. Can’t reveal all of my cards in one round, now can I?

I certainly asked a lot of rhetorical questions in this section, didn’t I?

More later. Peace.

All images are by Russian/Swiss artist, Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938)

Music by Rebecca Roubion, “Break”

                   

Summer Solstice

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.

~ Stacie Cassarino

“You want to be ‘different’ | You don’t want to feel | How much you love this life” ~ Susan Cataldo, from “My Son”

Vilhelm Hammershoi Interior with Young Man Reading 1898

“Interior with Young Man Reading” (1898, oil on canvas)
by Vilhelm Hammershøi


“. . . It seems
no time since I would help him to put on his sleeper,
guide his calves into the gold interior,
zip him up and toss him up and
catch his weight. I cannot imagine him
no longer a child” ~ Sharon Olds, from “My Son the Man”

Hallelujah!  Brett passed his driving test. He is officially legal to drive . . . anywhere his heart desires . . .

Hallelujah— a little less exuberantly . . . yet another line severed . . .

Hello, small boy no longer . . .

Hell.

Music by Jorge Calderon, “Keep Me in Your Heart” (a really nice cover of Warren Zevon’s song)

Note: I’m including a poem I may have featured before, but “The Olive Wood Fire” by Galway Kinnell is one of my life-long favorites.

                   

The Olive Wood Fire

When Fergus woke crying at night
I would carry him from his crib
to the rocking chair and sit holding him
before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood,
which it took a quarter-hour of matches
and kindling to get burning right. Sometimes
—for reasons I never knew and he has forgotten—
even after his bottle the big tears
would keep on rolling down his big cheeks
—the left cheek always more brilliant than the right—
and we would sit, some nights for hours,
rocking in the almost lightless light
eking itself out of the ancient wood,
and hold each other against the darkness,
his close behind and far away in the future,
mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself,
I thought I heard a scream
—a flier crying out in horror
as he dropped fire on he didn’t know what or whom,
or else a child thus set aflame—
and set up alert. The olive wood fire
had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus,
fast asleep, left check glowing, God.

~ Galway Kinnell

                   

My Son

I love this messy room you live in
The plants you care for
The nickels & dimes & pennies you pile
Up on your desk like no-good money
The Amazing Spiderman poster on the wall

Tapes paint comic books biographies
Of all you favorite presidents
A picture of the Lincoln Memorial
On the wall facing your bed
An eleven year old dusty red TV

Daphne turning into a tree
Two autographed photographs of
Leonard Nimoy. Dracula.
A cross made of branches
Held together by a rubber band

You love daisies
& keep them alive until
Every bud has blossomed
You are interested in
What everyone is doing

You think of new things for them
To do you make them heroes
In your fantastic head
You look strong & handsome
But you don’t see that

You want to defend helpless people
You want to know why there aren’t
Really super heroes
You ask the same questions
I ask myself & can’t answer

You don’t understand jokes
You think they hurt
You are constantly dodging
Bullets & dreaming up new
Ways to defend yourself

You are stubborn to a fault
A fortress of mind & chest
Eyes never more mirrored
The soul than your
You deny love

~ Susan Cataldo

                   

To a Young Son

Today I passed your room
and you were slowly quietly
combing your hair.
It was a pleasant, calm moment.
I felt the silence of the room
and could almost hear you growing.
You combed without a mirror,
your eyes distant and pale,
your head slowly nodding
like the head of a stroked animal.

Xerxes the King sent out a spy
who returned to camp, astonished to say
that the Spartans were all stripped to the waist
their bodies gleaming in the Aegean sun
and they were all carefully combing their hair.
The king was afraid then.
The Spartans were preparing to die.

I turn slowly from your doorway
and return to the linen closet where I
will fold this memory in my heart
among everything that is clean and fresh and white.

~ June Robertson Beisch

Note: I began writing this post on Monday. Then in the middle of it, I learned that Robin Williams had killed himself, and then nothing made sense any more…….

“Perhaps—I want the old days back again and they’ll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world falling about my ears.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, from Gone With the Wind

Monday afternoon. Cloudy and probably rain, 84 degrees.

Last night’s super moon was spectacular. I’m so glad that the clouds didn’t overshadow it. When I got up to let the dogs out, the entire backyard was awash in moonlight. So incredibly perfect.

The other day, I saw something I’ve never seen before: a buzzard was hanging out in someone’s front yard, munching on something . . . well, dead. Brett and I drove by, and he said, “Hey, that’s a buzzard!”

Of course I had missed it, so I drove around the block and then slowed as we neared the yard in which Brett had seen the bird. I saw it, and it was huge. Unfortunately, it heard the car and took flight. My, those wings, so massive. It was really something to see; we couldn’t have been more than twelve feet from it. I mean, I’ve seen them in the air, but never this close, and this still.

The other cool thing that happened is that Brett and I went thrifting, and I found a set of glass fish snack plates. I only have one fish plate left, and I’ve never had the snack size (about 5 inches wide), so I grabbed them. A while back I had looked on E-bay, and a set of two of the large fish plates was going for $30. Too pricey. I got eight of the small ones for $20. Such a deal.

Of course, to balance the two good things are two horrendous dreams: In both dreams, I see fire burst through a wall, and I immediately wake up—same image for both dreams, same reaction for both dreams. It has me more than a little paranoid, checking cords and connections, making sure nothing is frayed or a hazard. This particular scenario really has me unnerved.

“Later I’ll sweep away the nest—empty,
again, of everything but a blind
belief in the possible.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Another Spring”

In spite of the fire dreams, I’m feeling pretty good, and I suppose I have good reason: Social Security has finally, finally approved my disability claim. As a brief refresher, I was first forced out on disability in October 2007. I’ve been fighting with social security ever since.

I know that I am fortunate that I was covered for long-term disability through George Washington’s policy, but the endless fight with Social Security has taken a toll on me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve filled out the same forms, answered the same questions, had the same interviews. So even though they wanted to date it retroactive to November 15, 2012, I decided to accept.

When I asked the lawyer why that particular date, she said that they noticed from my therapy notes that I had taken a real downturn at that time . . .

No kidding. Really? How incredibly astute of them, she said, with more than a trace of bitter sarcasm . . .

What this means is that I don’t quality for Medicare until May of next year (for some reason, dates, times, confusing). And the backdated benefits that I’ll receive all have to be paid to my long-term disability carrier anyway (it’s part of the agreement), so the date doesn’t affect me that much. The irony is that the effective date would have meant so much a few years back when Corey was unemployed, and we were struggling, really struggling to keep my health insurance and a roof over our heads.

Oh well. Whatever.