Take this book and burn it
Once, when a reader at my old blog asked why The Lorax by Dr. Suess was challenged as inappropriate reading in some schools (the Lorax was gay? Communist? A feminist, god forbid?), in my search for the answer I found a great site called The Forbidden Library (but don’t go there yet! There’s more right here). The author, Janet, admits that part of the reason for compiling this list was that some of the rationales put forth for banning the books is rather funny. So, for The Lorax, which was challenged but not banned, she says this:
“Challenged in the Laytonville, Calif. Unified School District (1989) because it ‘criminalizes the foresting industry.’ Isn’t that the de-foresting industry?”
So, there you have it. It is offensive to loggers, perhaps the most oppressed minority in the United States. (And speaking of loggers, have you heard this story yet?)
The reason I remembered this old post, parts of which I will include here (don’t worry; mostly just the funniest parts), is that awhile back, I visited the blog of a friend who had posted about Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which includes two of my favorite books. Although her post was well-written and thoughtful, it did make that common assumption teachers of literature find most annoying: that if other people like a book, it’s because they’re going along with the crowd and they’re probably doing so because they don’t really understand the book. Okay, maybe that happens. I’ve long had my suspicions of those readers of Ulysses myself, for example. But that’s because I tried to read Ulysses once but had to stop when I felt the urge to beat my own head into a bloody pulp with it, and then go find/dig up James Joyce and beat his skull into powder.
Is it just me?
As I recall, the commenters at this aforementioned post about Pullman, mostly of a religious bent, and most of whom confessed to having not read the horrible, satanic work, went on and on about Pullman being so popular as a result of the “sheeple” pretending to like it because they wanted to be…something or other. I don’t know. Honestly, I never figured out what they thought we heretics were trying to be in liking Pullman. Anyway, I found it hilarious that I was the ONLY ONE who liked Pullman in a long list of commenters. The only one, perhaps besides the author who had actually read it, and she said she only read a fraction of it, I think. (I’m old; my hard drive is full. I need a flash drive I can plug into my ear.) I (aside from the post author) was the only one who could discuss Pullman’s work based on its merit.
DAMNED SHEEPLE THAT I AM!
I am a sheeple of one. I am following myself. I’ll just believe any old thing I tell myself because it’s easier than thinking for…both of me? Thank god I don’t have a tail. I would just chase that effer all day.
Anyway, last night the Jedi and I were watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and during the scene in which the Nazis were burning books, I again thought of The Forbidden Library and Pullman when Anakin suddenly shouted out angrily, “Books rule and those Nazis SUCK!”
Never have I had more compelling evidence of the corrupting power of literature. My seven-year-old said, “SUCK!” (I guess we should give up the crack-smoking before noon, too.)
But back to The Forbidden Library. Here are some more humorous examples (with Janet’s work in bold print, mine following):
“Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Holt. Removed in Wild Rose, Wis. (1974) by a district administrator for being ‘slanted.’ The administrator also said ‘if there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it.’ ”
We could all just read the backs of cereal boxes, I’m thinking. And slanted? A book about Wounded Knee? No way.
“Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Ace; Bantam; Crown; Delacorte; Dover; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Random; St. Martin. Banned in China (1931) for portraying animals and humans on the same level, ‘Animals should not use human language.’ ”
Only if they have very specific dietary restrictions, in which case human language would be helpful. Like when you’re screaming, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?!” in the face of an obstinate cat, you could get an answer.
As for Chaucer (oh, yeah, he’s there), I’ve long wondered why we don’t have more protests against him. He’s raunchy, and I do so love him. Remember the cook with the oozing boil who made the best sauces? Hmmm, secret ingredient? Don’t even get me started on that Wife of Bath. She kills me. And I once did a paper on the Knight that took me into the fascinating world of medieval mercenaries. Good memories from Geoff. Nobody loved a good fart joke more than Geoff. (Unless it was Mozart.)
If people really knew their Shakespeare, he’d be banned all over the U.S., too. (For some reason, Hamlet is banned in Ethiopia.)
“Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Modern Library. Challenged in Wise County, Va. (1982) due to ‘sexually offensive’ passages. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee (1983) called for the rejection of this book because it is a ‘real downer.’ “
“Ohhhhh, Alabam’/ The devil’s fools /with the best laid plan.”
“L’Engle, Madeleine C. A Wrinkle In Time. Dell. Challenged at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the book’s listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil. Got it. Let’s cross Jesus off that list, shall we?”
Any book that introduces children to the ideas of “artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders” in any slightly entertaining format has to be BAD, BAD, BAD.
“Malory, Sir Thomas. Le Morte D’Arthur. Scribner; Collier; Penguin. Challenged as required reading at the Pulaski County High School in Somerset, Ky. (1997) because it is ‘junk.’ Granted, Malory has problems with his narrative, but YOU try to translate Medieval French texts into comprehesible Middle English.”
No sh*t. I remember translating modern French in to modern English and vice versa in college. I remember wishing I could take Domestic Swine Latin instead. I have mastered that language.
“Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. Viking. Banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India due to its criticism of Islam. Burned in West Yorkshire, England (1989) and temporarily withdrawn from two bookstores on the advice of police. Five people died in riots against the book in Pakistan. Another man died a day later in Kashmir. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, stating, ‘I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death.’ Challenged at the Wichita, Kans. Public Library (1989) because it is ‘blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed.’ ”
AS IF I’m going to make a joke about any of that. The Iranians, like dogs with a fvcking bone, will not withdraw the fatwa because they claim only the one who issued it can withdraw it. That could present a small problem.
“Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galilei Galileo. Univ. of California Pr. Banned by Pope Urban VIII for heresy and breach of good faith (1633). The more things change, the more they stay the same…”
Couldn’t have said it better, sister.