Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm blowing this popstand. See you later, suckers.

OK, Blogger pissed me off today for the last time, so I've moved to Wordpress. Which, in less than 8 hours, is now my best friend.

Please come and find me at my new, shiny blog: Lucy's Football.

It's better! You will love it! Don't abandon me now, you're my only hope!

Also, today we're talking about purse hassocks.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Remember the firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord.

And finally, the last post celebrating the books people don’t want you to read. It’s kind of ironic how much I’m enjoying banned books week. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the people banning books are secretly working for the publishing companies, getting people interested in “subversive” titles. But then I think about it and realize they’re just crazy people with too much free time who hate anything that contradicts their very narrow worldview and I get angry all over again. 

So far, we’ve discussed children’s books and young adult literature and today, adult literature. I assume the books are being banned because the people who ban books don’t want young people to read them, though. They aren’t banning adults from reading them, right? Although they probably would, if they could, I wouldn’t put it past them. 

You know how on Facebook you can put your favorite books, and the top five are highlighted and photos of the covers are shown? I don’t think anyone but me cares about this section. I caretake this section very carefully. I want it to indicate my top five favorite books. Sometimes the covers disappear and I have to switch things around and that bothers me. I don’t like when it’s not pretty and looks like no one cares about it. I’d have made a very good librarian. My window displays would have been beautiful, I think. Anyway, my #1 favorite book of all time, as indicated on Facebook and, well, in my life? Is on the banned book list. Figures. Also, one of my favorite authors of all time, a few other books that are favorites as well. I like the subversive stuff. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I’d say I’ll keep this shorter than yesterday but I’m making no promises. 


Reason for ban: Offensive language and content; anti-governmental theme 

Synopsis: In a dystopian society where books are banned and firemen create, rather than put out, fires, fireman Guy Montag begins to doubt the government that rules him, with disastrous results. 

This really is the poster child for banned books. I think you can appreciate the irony, since IT’S ABOUT BANNING BOOKS. Not only is it about banning books, it’s about a society where books are SO SUBVERSIVE, being caught owning or reading one = death. The government has to protect its people from the dangers of reading. Sound at all familiar, especially this week? There are people employed whose job is to burn the printed word. So of course the book banning people don’t want our youth to read this. It’s about them. Can anyone hear the line “It was a pleasure to burn” and not get a little thrill running up their spine? That’s the first sentence. THE FIRST SENTENCE. This book grabs you and doesn’t let you go the minute you open it. I adore this book. I actually found an old school copy at a book sale years ago, with the thick orange covers, read to pieces by years of students, and I treasure that copy. It’s been loved (or perhaps loathed) by generations of students. It has history. I’m proud to have it in my collection. I’m a huge Bradbury fan overall (I also swoon over Something Wicked This Way Comes…the imagery in that book is just to die for) but Bradbury will always be remembered for this book, and what a wonderful way to be remembered. 

Reason for ban: Vulgar language, religiously profane, violent, and “derogatory toward African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled” 

Synopsis: The story of two migrant workers during the Great Depression. 

Honestly, this ban is a bit puzzling to me. This is classic literature, isn’t it? I can think of a number of titles that I find more offensive toward these groups than this one. I didn’t read it until college (listen, I didn’t go to a fancy-schmancy prep school, ok? We didn’t read much of import in my high school. When I stumbled upon something impressive it was by accident. No one was pointing me toward anything I should be reading. And the internet didn’t yet exist. Thanks, AL GORE. I had nowhere to go) but I remember just speeding through this and then sobbing my eyes out when it was finished. It had become very clear to me what was going to happen to Lennie, what had to happen to Lennie, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe in the farm, with the rabbits, where they could all be happy. I wanted the dream. Steinbeck gave me the reality. I both loved and hated him for that. The loneliness of this novel. The profound loneliness and isolation. The desperate search for connection. So haunting and beautiful. 

Yes, there’s vulgar language, violence, and I suppose it’s somewhat derogatory toward all of those groups – but it’s true to the time it was discussing, so should Steinbeck have sugar-coated the truth? The book wouldn’t still be a classic today if he had. I’m not so sure about the religiously profane part. It’s been a while since I read it but I don’t remember religion being that big of a factor. Maybe that’s what they have a problem with? Maybe if George had prayed before picking up the gun, all would be well? 

Side note: we did an adaptation of this at my theater a few years ago, and the men that played the leads are two of my favorite local actors. I’ve often said I’d watch them read the phone book for two hours and be thoroughly entertained. Every night, without fail, I’d come from wherever I was in the theater to the light booth to watch the final scene between the two of them, and every night, I’d bawl my eyes out. It was that touching. This is a powerful book. 

Reason for ban: Vulgar language, suicides, anal/homosexual rape, graphic sex scenes, child sex, losing virginity, prostitution, alcohol and drug use, antireligious references, and self injury 

Synopsis: A rebellious man fakes insanity to get out of a prison sentence and gets institutionalized instead, where he meets a group of mental patients and conflicts with the staff of the hospital. 

OK, I have to say, I don’t think I’d especially want my sixth-grader reading this, unless he or she was pretty advanced and able to handle serious situations. I mean, there’s some severe shit going down in this novel. And, upon re-read, McMurphy’s kind of a cock. I mean, he’s a badass, and you sort of admire him? And he’s not like Nurse Ratched, or anything, I mean, damn. But he’s kind of all in it for himself and doesn’t think about how his actions will impact others. However! This is literature, people. We shouldn’t be banning it. You can’t read that last section with the Chief and not cheer. You can’t read what happens to McMurphy at the end and not weep, no matter how id-driven he is. I can’t imagine this not being a good book to teach in a senior high school lit class. The discussion you could have would be epic. 

Also, the movie kind of rocks, and movie adaptations are seldom as good as the books. Jack Nicholson, I love you. 

Reason for ban: Rape, domestic abuse, racial slurs, violence 

Synopsis: A young girl in a small Southern town during the Great Depression deals with the racism surrounding a case her father, a famous lawyer, has taken on. 

If you don’t allow your young adults to read this book for any of the reasons listed above, there is something irreparably wrong with you. Everything about this book is perfect. There’s not a word wasted, not a scene, nothing. It won a goddamn PULITZER. It translates beautifully to the stage or the screen. It’s beautiful. And it covers important topics that you should be discussing with your children. Racism. Sexism. Domestic and sexual abuse. That adults and those in charge are sometimes not right. That sometimes, things aren’t fair. That appearances can sometimes be deceiving. 

Can you even hear the name Boo Radley without shivering a little? Can you even think of Atticus Finch stepping out into that street to kill the rabid dog without tearing up a bit? How about the phrase “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”? Or ‘Hey, Boo,’ I said.”? Or “Thank you for my children, Arthur.”? There is nothing about this book we need to protect children from. There is everything in this book we need to introduce children TO. 

And Atticus Finch. ATTICUS FINCH. I want an Atticus Finch. I will not be happy until I have an Atticus Finch. There is no man who will measure up to the bar that literary man has set in my mind. Why in the hell would we NOT want our children to aspire to Atticus Finchian levels of honesty, bravery and class?

Reason for ban: Pornographic, sexual and anti-Christian content 

Synopsis: in a dystopian and war-torn future, women are stripped of their families and all rights and are forced to serve men in whatever capacity the men see fit. 

Yeah, I can see why the book-banners wouldn’t want you to read this. Because women are treated like property, and are forced to mate and bear children with the men in power. But if it ended there, I have to wonder if the book-banners wouldn’t be all, oh, ok, then, good? But the women FIGHT BACK. In my mind, that’s what they object to. 

The anti-Christian content they object to, by the way, is that the men in the book are doing all of these things to the women BASED ON PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE. So really, this isn’t too far from the hatemongers who are all “THE BIBLE HATES GAYS SO IT’S OK IF I THROW ROCKS AT THEM GOD SAYS I CAN!!!”  

You know what? This is a cruel book. It’s a heartbreaking book. But it’s a book I think any young woman should read. It makes you angry, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Our young women SHOULD be angry about the way they are treated, and this is just an extension of what’s already happening. 

Speaking of Atwood – my second favorite book of all time (my favorite book will be discussed below) is Cat’s Eye. If you haven’t read this, and have an interest in the cruelties young girls can inflict upon one another and how this can affect women well into their adult lives, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful, evocative, lush read. I’ve read it so many times my book’s held together with duct tape and I’ve written in it so much that my notations are as thick as the text.  

Reason for ban: Profanity, drug use, violence 

Synopsis: a selection of short stories with similar characters linking them about the Vietnam War and the political climate surrounding it 

This is poetry in short-story form. Sure, it’s profane. It’s about a group of young men who were drafted and forced to serve in a war they have no interest in. But you care about these people. You love these people. You weep for these people. It’s a master class in writing. It’s everything done right. It’s taking ugly, horrible, painful, violent, bloody situations and showing them both as they are and the beauty in them. It’s a must-read for anyone in a creative writing class, in my opinion. 

Reason for ban: Anti-religious content, criticism of the US government, vulgar language, sexuality 

Synopsis: an expatriate in Canada reminisces about his best friend and their childhood in the 50’s and 60’s in New Hampshire. 

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice. Not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” 

This is my favorite book of all time. Ever. I highly doubt I will ever read a book that lives up to this one; I suppose anything is possible, but I don’t expect to, and I won’t be sad if I don’t. This book is perfection. I have no need to search for anything better because I’ve already found everything I want between these covers. 

I won’t spoil this book because I want you to go out, right now, if you haven’t already read it, and read it. Maybe you hate Irving. There are a lot of people who do. I know his voice isn’t for anyone. I’m one of those people who love Irving. I’d read anything he writes. I love his quirky voice, his repetition of favorite scenes and moments, his love of (for some reason) Prague and bears. 

A good friend in college gave me this book. I didn’t expect much, but read it because I loved her and she rarely steered me wrong. By the end, I was sobbing so hard I had to put it down, before I had finished it. Irving’s good with foreshadowing, and when it all finally came together, and I pieced together the clues into the picture puzzle they made, I didn’t want to look at it. It took me days to finish it. It was sitting there and I didn’t want to pick it up. I knew it would devastate me. I knew what would happen. 

I’ve read it repeatedly since, probably once every year or so. I’ve found new things upon every re-read. It’s sincerely the best book ever written, in my opinion. I want you all to read it. I want the world to read it. I want to share it with everyone. Which is why seeing it on the banned book list infuriated me. 

Does it have all of the things it’s being accused of? Yes, it does. Should it be read with caution? Yes, I’d recommend it to older readers – but mostly because younger ones wouldn’t catch the nuances. Is it worth it? Oh, my, yes. 

Oh, and DON’T WATCH THE MOVIE ADAPTATION. It is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my LIFE. It was a total and complete embarrassment. Please spare yourself. 

Owen Meany. You can’t read this without falling in love with little Owen Meany. And poor, lonely John Wheelwright. And furious, beautiful Hester. 

So there ends Banned Book Week 2011. I’m sure that the book-banning looneys will be busy all year so that next year I’ll have a whole crop of books to talk about. Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled bitching about nothing and getting highly offended by random shit, like WHY THE HELL MUST MY NEIGHBOR TAKE SHOWERS AT THE SAME TIME AS ME EVERY DAY WHEN HE KNOWWWWS THAT GIVES BOTH OF US VERY LITTLE HOT WATER BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A DUMP???

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


 I hit 100 posts today! I know to people who've been blogging forever this seems like nothing, but to me, it's kind of a very exciting milestone. Who knew that back in June when I wanted somewhere to bitch about things, I'd have stuck with it this long?

Thank you to everyone who's been reading, and I promise to try to keep entertaining, harassing, annoying, etc. you all for the foreseeable future.

Also! See the stuff on the right there? (Well, that is, if you're reading this on my blog. If you're in a feed reader or on your phone, you can't see that. So go to my blog and read this there for once!) There's a blogroll over there. I am anal as hell about that blogroll. Those people are amazing. They are excellent bloggers, some of whom I know personally, some I don't, but all of whom you should also be reading. Go visit them! Say hi! You'll be happy you did, I promise. They make me laugh, smile, snort, think, etc. on a daily basis.

So yay, 100 posts, and here's to hundreds and hundreds more!

Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.

Yesterday, we discussed children’s books, and also penguins who shared a forbidden love, except not forbidden, and totally awesome.

Today: young adult novels. And sorry in advance, this sucker is LONG. Maybe take a break halfway through! Have a muffin! Some coffee! Take a nice walk!

As a young adult, the last thing I wanted to be reading was young adult novels. I wanted to be a grownup! Which meant reading grownup novels, full of grownup things like jobs! And illicit sex with your married next-door neighbor! And carpooling! Also, when I was a teenager, many moons ago, there weren’t a lot of good young-adult novels. We had the Sweet Valley High series. If you grew up reading these, you know they were not good. Our options were kind of limited.

Young adult literature is currently fantastic. I don’t wish I was a young adult in 2011 – too many opportunities for people to take embarrassing cell-phone videos of me – but I do wish I was a young adult reader in 2011. These kids have options. It’s awe-inspiring. Sure, there’s still crap *coughTwilightcough* but there are also a lot of amazing books out there for young adults to read, if they choose to read young adult lit, as opposed to adult lit.

I’m quickly on my way to middle-age, and I love young adult lit. I probably read as much young-adult lit as I do traditional adult lit in a year. There are missteps, sure, just as there are in any genre, but there are also a lot of excellent books out there.

There’s also a huge backlash against young adult lit right now, so much so that there’s an entire YA Saves movement out there. Do a Google search and you’ll find a ton of blogs with their stories about how YA literature saved them when they needed someone and there were no people available. Books are always available. Books can save us. I believe very strongly in this myself, as the woman a bullied teen grew into.

The list of YA novels that are banned is a lengthy one, because WE NEED TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN is very strong when the children are teenagers. The teenagers! They need us to protect them the most! Otherwise, they might see DIRTY CUSSES! And VIOLENCE! And SEXUAL SITUATIONS! That they would not see ANYWHERE ELSE EVER ONLY IN BOOKS! Oh, wait, they’ll see them EVERYWHERE else. And like I said yesterday, if it’s in a book, you can also read the book, and you can open up a discussion with your teen – and *gulp* - HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH HIM OR HER. Whoo! Groundbreaking stuff, talking to your teenager!

Am I saying that young adults need to be reading actual pornography? Why, no, jackass, I am not actually saying that! What I’m saying is, give our children some credit. Underneath those baggy jeans that are falling down that I’m too old to understand and their trendy t-shirts are actual LITTLE PEOPLE. (Not “little people,” you weirdo. Sheesh.) With brains! And feelings! They would like to choose, personally, what they read. Even if it’s sparkly-vampire garbage.

Listen, I don’t want kids, and I don’t plan on having kids. But if I did, well, the karmic joke would be that they’d hate reading, I suppose. But let’s just assume they liked reading. I’d talk to them about the books they wanted to read. I’d suggest books. I’d discuss the books after they were done reading. We would have discussions spurred by the topics in the book. I loved the adults that talked to me in an adult way about literature when I was a teenager. Why do we assume our kids aren’t capable of handling topics in an adult fashion? Kids in today’s society are, honestly, more savvy about a lot of things than I am. Which is sad and a little scary but also true.

Today’s banned books! Young adult edition!


Reason for ban: “too negative” 

Synopsis: in a dystopian future, a young man is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories for his community. Once he grasps the truth of what is happening around him, he struggles with the hypocrisy of his society.

(Note – this is actually the first in a series of young adult novels, and continues with Gathering Blue and The Messenger, both set in the same version of the future. However, unlike the series I cover below, this book is most definitely a stand-alone as well, and I like it better than the others in the series, so I’m going to include it on its own.)

I read this book in college and was absolutely blown away by the leaps and bounds that young adult literature had made since I was a teenager. The topics in this novel are deep and profound and the writing is mysterious and beautiful. I don’t want to give too much away, in case anyone hasn’t read it. I know most of you have read The Hunger Games, probably, and if you did, and you like dystopian novels, you will love this book (and the whole series, although this is the best of the three, in my opinion.) The “too negative” ban made me laugh. Too negative? Yes, the topics covered in this book are fairly negative, sure. But here’s the thing – THEY’RE TRUE. They’re a potential outcome of where our society is heading. They’re eerily accurate. This is the young adult version of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, without being a copy of either of those novels. The people that don’t want our children to read this are the type of people that will end up creating the dystopian futures of young adult literature. Does that scare the shit out of you? It should.

Reason for ban: Violence, death, profanity, promotion of secular humanism/occultism

Synopsis: Jess, a lonely boy, meets Leslie, a new girl in town. They become best friends and create a magical world in the woods where they can play and use their imagination together.

You’ve all read this, right?  You have. Please tell me you have. Or you saw the movie, at least, which wasn’t as good as the book, because instead of you using your imagination to create Terebithia, the set designers and animatronics guys did and it was ok, but not great?

It’s kind of killing me to not just say what happened in this book that makes it both the most transcendent and also the most devastating thing I read in my childhood ever. But if it means I’m not spoiling even one person, I won’t say a word.

The reason this is being banned is because the book banning people – who have SO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS OMG CAN I HAVE A LITTLE OF THAT THANKS – think Terebithia is about witches or some such shit and this book will teach children that the Kingdom of God is nonsense and that we don’t need no Jesus, we can create our own religion in the woods with our imaginations and that is NAUGHTY.  Well, you know what I want to teach my hypothetical and not-going-to-ever-exist child? That their imagination is a very powerful force, and to use it or lose it. This book never says that religion is medicine-man hokum. If that’s what the book banners are reading into it, well, they’re using THEIR imaginations, now, aren’t they?

This book is also another example of a book that’s banned because it has a lot of truth in it that people think we have to shield our children from. There are bullies, and parents who don’t always act in the best interest of their children. There’s also A Very Bad Thing. A Very Bad Thing happens in this book. Which I won’t mention just in case you haven’t read it. But it’s something heartbreaking, and when I read this book, it was something I’d never read in a book about children before, and I remember putting the book down and actually saying, out loud, “No. No, that can’t be right,” and reading VERY VERY FAST ahead, ahead, ahead, to see if it was a joke, or a mistake. It wasn’t. I like that this book didn’t pull any punches. I respected that. This book scares the book-banners. Which is why you should read this book with your children, like, now.

Reason for ban: Sexual violence, violence against women/children

Synopsis: a young woman stops speaking rather than give voice to a tragedy that occurred in her life.

This book should be required reading for any young woman. I don’t say that lightly. Is it violent? Yes. Is it violent against women? Yes. Do the book-banners have a point in their criticisms? Well, listen, the book-banners have a point in MOST of their criticisms. They’re not made-up reasons. It’s not like I could say “I want to ban The Bible because I don’t like the way it trivializes the way toilet paper should hang over the roll” because immediately, people would say “THAT ISN’T EVEN IN THERE” and I’d look like a huge weirdo dumbass toilet-paper fetishist. Most of the reasons that the book-banners want to ban books are reasons that are actually IN the books, because it would look pretty stupid if they wanted to ban them for non-existent reasons.

This book should be read for the simple reason that it shows what happens, very graphically, to a teenage victim of sexual assault. Sorry if I gave that away, but I’m pretty sure you could have guessed from the reasons people want it banned. I won’t go into much detail, because I think you should read it (or watch the movie, which is an indie film starring Kristen Stewart before she became a morose vampire hoor – the plot varies, but it’s still fairly compelling. And KStew actually isn’t the world’s worst actor, when she’s given decent source material.)

If we protect our darling baby-pink princess daughters from all the scary things in the world? They will get eaten alive by said scary things the minute they step foot outside of the castle in their fairy kingdom. Would you send your boy-scout sons out for a night camping without a canteen and a tent? No, you would not. Then why in the name of all that’s holy would you not prepare your daughters for the possibility of violence against women?

“It’s ugly. My daughter doesn’t need to see that.” Yep, you know what else is ugly? Your daughter getting date raped because she wasn’t prepared for that possibility, or even aware that that possibility exists. “It’s violent, and violence only begets violence.” Well, I’m pretty sure a young woman reading this isn’t going to perpetrate what happens to the narrator on another young woman, so that’s a bit of a moot point. “Children don’t need to read things like this; they’re ugly.” Then don’t let children read it. Let young adults read it. And the world is filled with ugliness. This book is not pretty, but it’s true, and for how heartbreaking it is, it’s also triumphant.

Here’s something I have discovered during Banned Books Week 2011, which probably a lot of people already knew:

The people banning books are doing so because they’re scared. What are they scared of? Truth. And to keep the truth from your children, they want to make books containing it hard for them to obtain.


Reason for ban: “could numb students to the effects of violence”

Synopsis: In a dystopian future where America is broken into Districts, many of which are quite poor, young people are forced, annually, to fight to the death for public entertainment.

Have I mentioned my love for dystopian fiction? I would think it’s pretty obvious. I love it in books, I love it in movies, I love it in television series. Well, when it’s done correctly, anyway. Suzanne Collins did this series WELL.

Strong female lead. Tell me you don’t hear “The girl who was on fire” and get chills. Characters you care about. Plot so well-done and suspenseful that you can’t put it down.

Could it numb students to the effects of violence? Well, I suppose a lot of things could happen, in this crazy world we live in. I guess that could happen. I guess it could do that. I guess it could also show young women that they don’t need to be rescued by a man and that they have the inner strength needed to rescue themselves. Or that adults don’t always do the right thing. Or that our future might not be so rosy, if we’re not careful. Anything can happen, really. You know what happened when the daughter of a co-worker read the first book? A young woman who, previously, had to be bribed to finish her homework and wouldn’t be caught dead reading for *ugh* FUN? She wanted the second book. And then the third. Then she asked her mother, “Are there other books like this one? About girls like this?” I almost cried when I heard that story.  I’m a little teary-eyed now. IT INFECTED HER, you guys. It made her want MORE. So by all means, let’s ban this, please. Let’s ban something that makes our young people want to read. That’s a good move.

Reason for ban: Witchcraft, violence

Synopsis: Really? Do I have to? Don’t you already know? Fine. A young man finds out he is a wizard and enters a school of witchcraft, where he meets friends, has adventures, and fights enemies.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell anyone reading this about this series, because if you haven’t read it, or watched at least one of the movies, or read about it, or somehow absorbed something about it via osmosis, I think you might live in a cave, and how are you reading my blog?

Is there witchcraft in this series? Um, well, yes, yes there is. Since it’s about witches. Is there violence? Yes, again, there is that, especially when you get to the later books in the series.

There’s also friendship. And love. And valor. And compassion. And bravery. And intelligence. The writing and plot are crisp and work both for young adults and adults (as an adult who started the series in her mid-twenties, they certainly work for adults.) Stephen King’s famous Harry Potter quote, just because I love it: “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

Also, there’s Neville Longbottom. Let’s set aside, for a moment, movie-Neville, who went from a chubby dorky kid to a drop-dead gorgeous young man over the years, and concentrate on book-Neville. I liked Harry and Ron and Hermione and I kind of loved Snape and enjoyed a lot of the other characters but I ADORE Neville. Neville had it rough. He could easily have been The Boy Who Lived, but Voldemort didn’t pick him. He isn’t the golden boy. He keeps his head down, he does his job, he works hard, he’s a good friend, and he gets bullied. Relentlessly. His parents are dead (or as good as dead, really.) He lives with his abusive, abrasive grandmother. But Neville never lets this get him down. Neville is all of us. We don’t shine. We’re not the stars. We’re in the shadow of the stars. But we get our moment, once and a while. I liked everyone else. I loved Neville. My heart broke for Neville, book after book after book. This is something we should ban? This is something we should keep from our children?

Is this series going to make young adults want to start practicing Wicca? Well, I suppose, some of them. I can’t rule that out. But most of them will be turned off when they realize they can’t make potions that turn them into other people or make things levitate or create a Patronus, I’d imagine – and the ones that stick with it, well, I’m not going to say it’s a bad thing, because it’s a good practice that I’ve been involved in and it promotes caring about yourself, the earth, and other people. Is it going to make them violent toward one another? Well, again, I suppose anything’s possible, but I think it’s probably fairly unlikely that Harry Potter is inspiring anyone to attack their classmates with a Cruciatus Curse. Or that they’d have the right wand to do the deed correctly, honestly.

Reason for ban: Drug use, violence, cruelty against children and animals, anti-Christian message

Synopsis: In an alternate England where magic works side-by-side with science, a young man and woman come of age while having a series of adventures.

If you’ve seen the movie, please pretend you didn’t. The movie was not indicative of how amazing, brilliant, heartbreaking, awesome, and wonderful this series is.

Lyra Silvertongue. One of my favorite literary heroines of all time.

I’m always amazed when people haven’t read this. It’s the forerunner to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, people. It is BRILLIANT.

It’s pretty obvious why it would be banned. This book does not care much for God, and does not hide that fact. At all. I won’t spoil it, but when it comes to God, this series pretty much says, “Who needs THAT nonsense?” and kind of literally, too. Read it. You’ll see what I mean. It’s not a series for someone who doesn’t like to ask questions, or who doesn’t like their worldview shaken. But it is a series for an intelligent reader, a thoughtful reader, a caring reader.  Lyra is a strong female lead who – shocking news ahead! – MAKES MISTAKES LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN WOULD OMG. Real things happen. People die. Sometimes the wrong people. People make the wrong decisions; people screw things up irreparably; people in this series are very much like everyone you’d meet in real life. They’re not above error. And you love them for it. And you root for them. And you weep with them, and you cheer for them. It’s not a happy series, overall. But it’s a TRUE series. And sometimes that’s better, both for young adult readers and for adult readers, because real life is messy, and if you’re reading books where everything turns out perfectly all the time, you start to wonder why things in your own life are so screwed-up if everyone else’s lives are so perfect.

I know, I know, I promised to keep this brief. I didn’t succeed. I’m a bit of a book nerd, as you can tell. If anyone’s still with me, you’re probably as much of a book nerd as I am, and I love you for it. Tomorrow (hopefully, if work doesn’t kick my ass into submission like today did!), my favorite banned adult novels, or why the classics are warping the youth of America’s minds so badly they will probably die unless we ban the shit out of them for their own good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak.

I was the girl reading quietly in the corner all through school.

I know, you can’t tell, now. I’m pretty loud, nowadays. But as a quiet and socially awkward kid, who grew into a quiet and even more socially awkward teen, books were my escape. 

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the library was my church. Well, ok, fine, CHURCH was also my church, I mean, I went to church, but if I had gotten to CHOOSE a church, it would be the library. It still is, too. That hasn’t changed. Now, given my choice in the matter, I worship at the dual temples of Library and Theater. But the library. It’s still the same, all this time later, walking in there. The scent of it. The hush of it. The heady knowledge of all of those books, and you could check out any of them, and each of them has a different world inside, waiting for you to discover it and get lost in it. 

There was nothing I loved more than getting lost in a book, as a kid. My parents still tell stories about bringing me to family events and me refusing to interact with anyone, just curling up on the couch and reading until it was time to go home. I spent an entire family reunion in the car reading a Stephen King book because I had just discovered him and there were SO MANY BOOKS and they were SO GODDAMN GOOD that it was all I wanted to be doing. (Oh, and also I hate family reunions. I DON’T KNOW WHO ANY OF YOU ARE. So nervous-making.) My father always wanted to take us on long drives on Sundays with a secret final destination; I would get so frustrated because without him telling me how long I’d be in the car, I’d never know how many books to bring with me, and there was nothing more painful than running out of reading material and being forced to sit and stare at the landscape or (shudder) interact with people. 

It’s Banned Books Week this week, September 26-October 3. It’s appropriate this week comes right in my favorite time of year, and right as kids are coming back to school, I think. One of the purposes of the week, other than to highlight banned books, is to “celebrate the freedom to read.” What a beautiful phrase. The freedom to read. Because it is freedom, really, to be able to walk into a library and have a choice of whatever you’d like, and it’s freedom to be able to read it without fear of persecution, and it’s freedom to have the education needed to understand what’s being read. It’s a beautiful, rich freedom. It’s something I’m thankful for every day. 

I researched some of the most frequent banned books, in honor of this week, and chose some of my favorites from the list (and one that I haven’t read, but it makes me UTTERLY FURIOUS) to highlight and talk about briefly. I know most of you are inundated with banned books posts this week. You know what? Good. Read them. Find out why the books are banned, and then, oh, I don’t know, READ THE BOOKS. Because someone banning a book is taking away someone else’s freedom. Without getting too political, we’re a country losing more freedom every day. Be a little subversive. Stick it to the man. Read a banned book. Or, even better? Since you’ve probably already read these, share a banned book with a younger reader. Kids, especially teens, LOVE the idea of doing something they’re not supposed to. Well, play up that angle, if you must. All of these books are guaranteed to open up conversations, open up minds, and teach readers something – and piss someone off in the process. (Also, these are all vetted by me, and I have a little over THREE DECADES of experience with amazing literature. I’m no fly-by-night ne’er-do-well, here. THESE ARE EXCELLENT NOVELS.) 

Today, I’m concentrating on children’s books; tomorrow, young adult novels; and Thursday, adult novels (which could also be read by young adults, because any book I read today, I probably would have read as a young adult. I was reading quite a bit I most likely “shouldn’t” have been, as a teen. I don’t see any long-term damage from it, other than I had the vocabulary of an 80-year-old retired librarian and the other kids hated me.) So yes, you get three days of banned books posts. If you are only here because sometimes I can be funny, I apologize. Maybe some of the things I say ABOUT the books will be funny. But mostly, they’ll be pissed. 

I have to give a disclaimer, here. I know Google gives the option of putting a pop-up for “adult language.” But I’m going to be cussing over the next few days. Probably lots. Banning books PISSES ME OFF. People that ban books PISS ME OFF. They have nothing better to do than read books and decide – as if they are King Shit of Turd Mountain (someone said this to me once and it made me laugh so hard I snorted because it’s the stupidest, yet I keep using it, because I have the sense of humor of a teenage boy, quite often) – what is SAFE FOR THE CHILDREN. Oh, my, my favorite argument, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!?!? You know what? The children, they’re going to be alright. The children see worse than what’s in these books every day at school, on television, on the bus, amongst their groups of friends. If it’s in a book, parents have the option of also reading the book, and then having a meaningful discussion with their child after they’ve finished reading. I can’t wait until my nephew is old enough to read books with substance. I have grand plans for his literary education. (He’s already showing a lot of interest in books, so score one for genetics! Both his mother and I are huge book people, so we’re really jazzed about his love of being read to – and he’s already “reading” to his stuffed animals, so it’s only a matter of time before he learns to read and then ALL BETS ARE OFF, suckers, The Nephew and I are GOING TO START A BOOK CLUB OF TWO.) 


Reason for ban: Sexist, critical of the foresting industry, undermining of the parental, school, and religious authority 

Plot: the story of the relationship between a tree and the boy that she loves throughout his (and her) lifetime. 

The Giving Tree has the distinction of making me cry like a crazy person in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble in college. I didn’t read any Silverstein as a child (I don’t know why, I guess he just wasn’t on my radar?) and a college friend recommended him to me. As a poor person (still am!) I went to the bookstore to read them. (Still do that!) And bawled my eyes out, right there in the children’s section. Mothers were dragging their children away from me. I have bought this book for so many of my friends who are having children, I can’t even count. And now I find out it’s sexist? Well, that’s nice. You could reverse the sex of the tree and the human and it would be the same story. The other criticisms are ridiculous as well. It is BEAUTIFUL. Sad, but beautiful. As are his other children’s books. Silverstein’s books have a twisted sense of humor and he understood how children’s minds worked. You can’t go wrong introducing your child to Silverstein. 

“Critical of the foresting industry?” Yeah. Give me a break, please. There’s one mention of “foresting,” without giving too much away, and it’s not “critical.” I think someone was grasping at straws. Or maybe at leaves. 

As for undermining everything and anything that a child should be respectful of – the point of this book is love. This is a book about sharing and love. Is the boy a bit of a selfish dick? Yes. But until the kid is older, he or she isn’t going to get that. It’s lovely, and it made me cry at the Barnes and Noble. 

Reason for ban - “an attack on families headed by heterosexuals”

This is the one that makes me furious. First, look at the cover.
Then, look at a real life photo of the penguins that inspired the book.


The penguin daddies are not attacking your heterosexual family unit! The penguin daddies just want to raise little Tango! The penguin daddies – I hate to say – DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU EXIST! They are too busy being adorable and penguiny and diving for fish and waddling around and raising their baby! They have no interest in furthering the insidious homosexual agenda that has you so up in arms! Why? Oh, let’s see, I don’t know, how about BECAUSE THEY ARE FUCKING PENGUINS YOU HOMOPHOBIC MOTHERFUCKER? 

Fine, no, I HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK. But you know what? Unless the final page of this book says something like “And Roy, Silo and Tango want YOU to know that if you don’t have two daddies, YOUR FAMILY UNIT IS BROKEN IRREPARABLY” then your argument IS INVALID AND IDIOTIC. There are gay penguins. It is a fact. This is a touching story. This is a fact. THE PENGUIN DADDIES WERE SO DESPERATE TO RAISE A CHILD TOGETHER THEY ATTEMPTED TO RAISE A ROCK before they were given little Tango to raise together. If this doesn’t tug at your heartstrings YOU ARE AN ANDROID PERSON. 

I’m sorry. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this? But my #1 of all time without any peer favorite animal? The penguin. Penguins are CHEERFUL. Penguins are ADORABLE. Penguins are KIND OF DORKY. You can’t watch a penguin waddling around and swimming and taking care of their eggs and such without a HUGE GRIN. (Well, except if you’re watching that penguin documentary that was made of tears. DAMN YOU MORGAN FREEMAN!) Once, I went to the zoo? And a penguin escaped from his little penguin enclosure and waddled over to the otter enclosure and started swimming gleefully with the otter. The otter didn’t know what to make of this! The otter was baffled! And I was a little worried there would be a bloodbath because I don’t know the ins and outs of the animal kingdom and/or how bloodthirsty the otter as an animal might be. But no, the penguin charmed the (hypothetical) PANTS off that otter (hypothetical because otters don’t HAVE pants, they are totally exhibitionists), and they swam around like good old chums. IT WAS THE BEST. You could not look away. BFFs cross species LINES when it comes to penguins. Then it was feeding time in the penguin enclosure and the penguin had to go and that was a sad parting because friends were made that day. BEST FRIENDS.


Tomorrow: three young adult novels and three young adult series, most of which are banned for being too violent for WORDS. The children, people, come on, seriously, the CHILDREN. Where are the children, by the way? Playing Grand Theft Auto, you say? Oh, ok, then. Carry on.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I totally just won the U.K. Lottery. SEE YOU LATER LOSERS.

Confession: I got suckered recently.

My dad told me a story the not-too-long-ago on the phone. It was funny in a kind of weird, distressing way, so I passed it along to someone.

The story my dad told me?

“This woman who works with your aunt has an autistic son. One day, after he’d gotten home from school, he called her at work. ‘I caught a troll,’ he said. ‘I’ve got him locked in the closet.’ She thought he was making things up, but he was very insistent, so she called her husband at work and asked him to go home and check on their son. He did, and heard banging coming from inside a closet. When he opened the closet, over his son’s protests, he found a very indignant little person, who had been going door-to-door working for the Census bureau. The son had thought he was a troll, overpowered him, and locked him in the closet.”

Sound familiar?

It should. It probably happened to a friend of a friend of yours, or your brother-in-law’s cousin, or your hairdresser’s son.

Now, you’re reading this and thinking I’m a complete dumbass. And honestly, I have no idea why this didn’t raise a red flag to me. I think because it was my father telling it to me, and my father doesn’t usually fall for garbage. And he heard it from my uncle, who is very serious about things. As is my aunt. They are not the usual people who are suckered into crap.

It didn’t even hit me until a week later, when the person I’d passed the story along to said, “You know what’s funny? I told that story to my aunt, and she told me it also happened to a friend of a friend of hers! She must be friends with your aunt’s co-worker!” Ding ding ding! FRIEND OF A FRIEND. Shit shit shit. I’d passed along an urban legend. I’d become THAT GIRL. I was one step away from forwarding chain emails WRITTEN ALL IN CAPS WITH EMBARRASSING TYPOS and LOTS OF LOLS and HEARTS and CARTOONS OF FLAGS telling people that Obama is a terrorist because I’d read it somewhere on the interwebs. I might as well start wearing kittycat sweaters and getting a blue rinse in my tight old-lady perm.

What’s even more embarrassing is that I’m a huge fan of urban legends. I love to debunk those stupid emails. I’ve read books on the genesis of urban legends. I used to be obsessed with that awful show Jonathan Frakes hosted, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. Did anyone else ever used to watch this? Apparently it aired from 1997 to 2002, but I caught it on reruns years later. It was horrendous. It had about six segments per episode, and you watched each segment (the segments were about ghosts, psychic phenomena, urban legends, and various other odd occurrences) and decided if it was a fact or fiction. Then at the end, Jonathan Frakes told you if you were right. Only, sometimes the show was wrong, and it would tell you that an urban legend was a fact, and that was off-putting. What can you expect, it was on FOX. The reenactments were horrendously produced, too. They were about as low-budget as they come. Like, people would run across a “set” and the walls would shake because they were made of cardboard. That bad. I LOVED IT. It was one of those shows that aired in repeats on Sunday afternoons when there was nothing else on and I’d get suckered in and I’d yell at the television. “THAT IS NOT A TRUE STORY JONATHAN FRAKES!” I would gleefully shout, as my roommate shook her head and wondered why I watched something that was obviously incorrect and awful.

I like urban legends because they are our generation’s version of fairy tales, passed from person to person, like back in the day when our ancestors would sit around the campfire telling stories to one another. Only they’re usually pretty stupid. But the ones that aren’t entertain me to no end. I love the creativity involved in them! The good old fashioned storytelling!

My favorites are the scary ones – like the gang initation/headlight thing (which many people I know ARE CONVINCED IS TOTALLY TRUE!!!) – or the really stupid ones, like the woman who dried her poodle in the microwave. I’m easily amused.

I get a lot of urban legend email forwards from people, which I like to forward back to them, with the Snopes article debunking their claim attached. The top ones they send are that Facebook is going to make us start paying for content (no they’re not), that Obama is a terrorist for so many reasons (I get this one because I’m one of those goddamn liberals and I live in the most goddamn liberal town full of goddamn liberals who are goddamn brainwashing me using their goddamn liberal brainwashing tactics – since I’m originally from a bastion of conservatism, people there think it is their duty to educate me that my beliefs are WRONG and I am SUPPORTING TERRORISTS) (and Obama isn’t a terrorist, so STOP IT PEOPLE),  and a million of those chain letters telling me that if I don’t forward them, everyone I love is going to die in a horrible bloody chainsaw tractor accident and then get hit by a meteorite sent by a  vengeful God.


I even get them at work. It’s gotten so bad that my IT department had to send out a memo earlier in the month telling people the signs to look for that what you’re forwarding to people is probably an urban legend and not a very hot tip that your friends need to know in order to survive and not die screaming.

The tips from the IT department:

It suggests tragic consequences for not performing some action.
It promises money or gift certificates for performing some action.
It claims it's not a hoax.
There are multiple spelling or grammatical errors, or the logic is contradictory.
There is a statement urging you to forward the message.
It has already been forwarded multiple times (evident from the trail of email headers in the body of the message).

These are good tips, IT department. However, people don’t pay attention to them. They read these tips, they think, “Hey! Good tips!” and then forward the next damn hoax that comes along, because they think that the tips don’t apply to them. People think they are exempt from the rules of urban legends. Much like me and my stupid passing along of the troll story, they think “but this will not happen to ME! I would not pass along an urban legend!”

Let’s look at these tips in more detail.

It suggests tragic consequences for not performing some action/It promises money or gift certificates for performing some action/There is a statement urging you to forward the message.

People still think – STILL, and this started happening EONS ago – that Bill Gates is going to send them money for forwarding an email. It’s not going to happen. Also, those chain emails that say that if you don’t forward an email to the ten most fabulous women you know within the next fifteen minutes or you will NEVER FIND LOVE EVER and also, if you don’t send it back to the person who forwarded it to you, SHE WILL KNOW WHAT A SHITTY FRIEND YOU ARE? Well, color me shitty, because I just hit delete, asshole. STOP SPAMMING ME. Seriously. Why are you wasting our mutual time on this? Why aren’t you WORKING? At WORK? I mean, I know why I’m not. I’ve got a very important and socially-relevant blog about important things like whorish Halloween costumes and pie charts to write and if I don’t write in it, there are literally TENS of people who will be disappointed. But you? And the worst thing, one of the people who sent me the most of these, before I completely blocked her email, was in the medical field. Um. You’re supposed to be saving people’s lives, I think? And also, years of medical school, and you still think that chain letters both work and are something that you need to fill your friend’s email inboxes with? If I ever get injured, please bring me to any hospital but yours. Thanks in advance.

It claims it’s not a hoax.

I love this. That’s someone sending you an email telling you you’ve won the British Lottery, or someone telling you that they’re the Prince of Uganda and you need to deposit their check into your bank account, or a homeless person coming up to you, smelling of beer, telling you they just need $20 for a bus ticket to visit their sick mother. “But it MUST be true! It SAYS SO! Right HERE!” Yes! Yes it does. Well! Then how could it be A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FALSEHOOD. Because NO ONE HAS EVER LIED TO ANYONE EVER IN PRINT.

There are multiple spelling or grammatical errors, or the logic is contradictory.

Well, if it’s coming from one of the people who usually send me this kind of crap, the spelling errors could either be in the original message, or coming from them, honestly, so this one’s hard to tell. And as for logic – well, logic isn’t really the strong suit of people who are sending these things. People who are sending these things think that a multitude of celebrities died falling off of cliffs, that black and white caterpillars are poisonous, and casinos pump extra oxygen in to keep gamers awake and playing longer

It has already been forwarded multiple times (evident from the trail of email headers in the body of the message).

Then it MUST be true. Look at all the people who have already seen it! THIS IS A FAMOUS EMAIL.

Here’s my urban legend advice.

If you hear “friend of a friend” – GO TO SNOPES.COM.

If it sounds overly jingoistic and suspect – GO TO SNOPES.COM.

If you get an email forward with a lot of caps, misspellings, and teddy bear cartoons – DELETE IT.


Now, send this post to everyone you know within the next ten minutes or you will not get the money that’s coming to you, you will get boils on your face, your hair will fall out, your prince will NEVER come, and you’ll get crabs the size of cockroaches. A friend of a friend told me so. IT MUST BE TRUE.