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???