Egret and crab

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Burn not, lest ye be burned.

The library didn't only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to the shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren't also dangerous just because reading them didn't make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader's brain.
Terry Pratchett. Soul Music

It's Banned Book week nationally. This is a shot I took this morning of the window at the Fallbrook Public Library across the street. They did a great job on the window display. Here are the top fifty books that people in the United States tried to ban from 2000 to 2009.

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22 Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23 The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25 Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26 Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28 Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29 The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30 We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32 Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33 Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36 Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37 It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38 Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39 Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40 Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41 Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42 The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43 Blubber, by Judy Blume
44 Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45 Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46 Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48 Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50 The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

It is interesting to go through the list. I see neither a Fanny Hill or a Candy or any other of that ilk. Pornography is evidently not the hot button that sends the townspeople scurrying for the torches. Some vulgar language but nothing that the kids don't hear every day. So what are their knickers in such a twist over?
Harry Potter, the number one offender, a children's book, is of course in reality a tome guaranteed to turn your impressionable child into a witch or a warlock. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (promotes euthanasia, condones racial slurs, "anti-business", containing profanity, and generally containing "vulgar" and "offensive language"), To Kill a Mockingbird (depictions of rape, insults the south), One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest ( promotes dangerous anti-establishment views), basically the lot is a pantheon of classic American fiction. Catcher in the Rye, between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. Promotes teenage angst, includes the words fuck and goddamn. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Allende's House of the Spirits. Brave New World. Fahrenheit 451, as if that irony isn't extra rich.

What are we trying to suppress here? It seems like the list is more geared to quash dissent and objective self discovery than to shelter our impressionable little darlings from harm. Keep the fertile young minds on the ultra square.

I have my own problems with the library. People forgot that they are supposed to be quiet there, somewhere along the way. They chatter, speak on their phones and let children run amok. In some cities, it is the final decampment for hygiene deficient homeless. But I am sure glad that books and libraries exist. 

Books. Beware of those that would ban or burn them.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the same principle at work in advocating for capital punishment, as in favoring the banning or burning of books? that is, let's deal with a problem by simply getting rid of it.

Anonymous said...

Why do I only see the same motley crew of odd people every day at the library? They are the ISP-deficient ones cruising porn on the public computers too.
When will the Libaries wash their disgustingly filthy chairs and tables? When will they get books newer than 9-12 months old? What have they got against trade paperbacks?
So many books, so little time. Does anyone even read those dead-tree relics any more?


grumpy said...

I used to work right across the street from the main branch of the Santa Monica public library, which might as well have been a homeless shelter.