Banned Books Week! Are you with the banned, in 2012?

October 4, 2012

It’s almost gone, and I haven’t even posted on it yet:  Happy Banned Books Week!

We’re celebrating this week from September 30 to October 6 — you’ve got two more days.

Can you identify each of these banned books?

Courtesy of Bookman’s, a book store in Arizona.

A two-minute video produced by Bookmans, an Arizona bookstore, is helping launch a national read-out from banned and challenged books that is being held on YouTube in conjunction with Banned Books Week, the national celebration of the freedom to read (Sept. 30-Oct. 6). The video presents Bookmans’ customers and staff urging people “to turn on the light” by celebrating freedom of expression. With light bulbs burning brightly above their heads, each of them reads a single line from a banned or challenged book that testifies to the importance of reading, books and freedom of speech. “It is a wonderfully creative and inspiring video,” said American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression President Chris Finan. “We hope all supporters of Banned Books Week will use social media to share it with their friends and the rest of the world, giving a big boost to this year’s read-out.” More than 800 people posted videos on YouTube during Banned Books Week last year. More information about the read-out, including updated criteria and submission information, is available here.

Which are your favorite Banned Books?

News and More:


Books dead? Barnes & Noble for sale

August 4, 2010

News of the death of books panicked some stockholders in Barnes & Noble.  Responding to those concerns, the company put itself up for sale (Wall Street Journal article).

The pen didn’t kill the book.  The typewriter didn’t kill the book.  The pencil didn’t kill the book.  Radio didn’t kill the book.  Movies didn’t kill the book.  Television didn’t kill the book.  Telephone didn’t kill the book.  Personal computers didn’t kill the book (much to the chagrin, perhaps, of the designers of the Apple Lisa — and if you remember that, and it’s coming with all the works of Shakespeare loaded on the harddrive, you’re older than your colleagues think you are).

In “A Dangling Conversation,” recorded in 1966 by Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon’s lyrics say, “We speak of things that matter/With words that must be said./’Can analysis be worthwhile?/Is the theatre really dead?'”  Some other questions are similarly and equally unstuck in time, and I think “Is the book dead?” is one of them.

So long as there are books, and readers who demand books, there is a need for a bookstore.  They may move to our libraries, but we’ll still need and want them.

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Quote of the moment: David Brooks, books vs. internet

July 12, 2010

Wisdom comes in keen insights:

These different cultures foster different types of learning. The great essayist Joseph Epstein once distinguished between being well informed, being hip and being cultivated. The Internet helps you become well informed — knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies and important trends. The Internet also helps you become hip — to learn about what’s going on, as Epstein writes, “in those lively waters outside the boring mainstream.”

But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own. You have to take the time to immerse yourself in a great writer’s world. You have to respect the authority of the teacher.

Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.

It’s better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant, and making the important more prestigious.

David Brooks, “The Medium is the Medium,” New York Times, July 9, 2010, page A23


Quote of the moment: Books as lighthouses in the dark sea of time

July 3, 2010

Jeffrey Robbins, a human character in the animated cartoon series,

Jeffrey Robbins, a human character in the animated cartoon series, “The Gargoyles”

The written word is all that stands between memory and oblivion. Without books as our anchors, we are cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning. They are windows on the past, mirrors on the present, and prisms reflecting all possible futures. Books are lighthouses, erected in the dark sea of time.

Jeffrey Robbins, a character in the cartoon series, “The Gargoyles”

Now available on Youtube.  To get the quote above, to go to 21:30 in this video:

Tip of the old scrub brush to James Kessler.


Idle thinking, among the bookporn

March 28, 2010

Night out for the boys — well, for Kenny and me — while Kathryn had some of the girls over.

Kenny introduced me to a Dallas sushi venue, Asian Mint.  His appearing-to-be deep-fried Texas Roll was a pleasant, crunchy blend of oriental and Texas.  The mango sauce added a sweet smoothness.  My more standard tuna came with a little internal heat — the wasabi perfectly blended (Kenny is the one who doesn’t like horseradish heat, having somehow missed that gene from my grandfather).

Asian Mint is a Dallas hit (“Asian fusion”).  It’s not Salt Lake City’s Takashi, but for 1,000 miles from the Wasatch Front, it’s a good place for Saturday night.  We got there early.  Families were lined up waiting when we left.

We closed off the night at Half-Price Books, at the store on Northwest Highway fans and employees fondly deem “the mother ship.”  (Years ago, across the street to the east, the store was in an old, converted restaurant which had a pirate’s ship inside; the store kept the ship as a kids’ reading area.  Was that the origin of “mother ship?”)

Books?  Today?

I don’t read enough.  20 years ago I found a study that said if you read one book a month, 12 books a year, you’re in the 99th percentile of readers.

The coffee mug with Einstein on it says “Coffee makes me smart.”  Kenny, our family’s most-tech savvy early-adopter — a high commendation in a family where Mom and Dad have been in computers since mainframes were the way to go — agreed that it’s more likely books that make us smart.  We don’t read enough, but we stay in the 99th percentile.

What an easy, easy way to get ahead!  Get a book:  Read it.

Michael D. Green, the real estate impresario for Murray Hill who formerly headed the Louis August Jonas Foundation when I had so much fun there, used to say that he was not educated, but he read the book reviews.  Reading the book reviews would be better than not knowing.  At a Manhattan cocktail party he could hold his ground with just about anyone.  I’ve never found a topic on which he didn’t know something, usually cutting-edge.  His book recommendations are always epiphanies.

Bookstores are full of them, epiphanies.

So are libraries.  Idle Think’s “bookporn” series cheers me up enormously, most of the time.


Quote of the moment: Einstein, on nature

March 27, 2009

Cartoon of Einstein and FDR, making fun of FDRs alphabet soup - Basil OConner collection, Texas Parks and Wildlife

Cartoon of Einstein and FDR, making fun of FDR's "alphabet soup" - Basil O'Conner collection, Texas Parks and Wildlife

Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.


Impromptu Banned Books Week Carnival

October 4, 2008

Banned Books Week flies by way too fast.  So many banned books, so little time.

Was it appropriate for Sarah Palin’s only debate with Joe Biden to come in Banned Books Week?  Or, was it fate?

Liam Sullivan at Panorama of the Mountains had a great idea, running a list of good blog posts on banned books, “Banned Books Week 2008” — I’ll try to encourage readership at his blog by not repeating any of his listings here.  That will make this little impromptu carnival shorter by a lot, and challenging to me to compose.

Let’s start with some of the big dog blogs.

Boing-Boing featured the great window display from the Twin Hickory Public Library in Glen Allen, Virginia:

Window display at the libraray in Glen Allen, Virginia, for Banned Books Week.  via Boing Boing

Window display at the Twin Hickory Public Library in Glen Allen, Virginia, for Banned Books Week. via Boing Boing

A display showing live humans reading may become even more rare over the next few years, as the No Child Left Behind Act begins to affect Americans.

Jesus’s General noted the same display, but with a banner that shows the necessarily political character of standing up for books and knowledge in an era that tries to discount education as “elitism,” and smart and educated people as “elitists,” as if “elite” didn’t mean “the best.”  Which brings up a sore point with me:  How have the book banners been so successful in stamping out dictionaries?  Dictionaries are great books to promote freedom — but just try to find a good one in most homes, or in school classrooms.  My father and mother kept a dictionary on their desk at the store they owned; a good dictionary used to be a great high school graduation gift for a student off to college.  When was the last time you saw such a thing used as such a gift?  I digress.

Banned Books Week banner found at Jesus General

Banned Books Week banner found at Jesus' General

Jesus’ General said:

Books can be dangerous. Many contain ideas. Sometimes unpopular ideas. Ideas that may make one think. Ideas that engage and transform us. Ideas that set off our imaginations. Ideas that can change the way we see the world. Ideas that may make decide to help change the world for the better. Clearly books can be subversive. And we can’t have that! An informed and imaginative people could do incredible things.

Paper Cuts, a book blog at the New York Times site, asks “What are you doing for Banned Books Week?” it features a nice photograph of the public library in Wasilla, Alaska.  Barry Gewen offers great insights into Banned Books Week.

One of the most informative of these lists is “Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course, Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century” — because it provides background on various censorship efforts over the years. It’s also the most amusing list, though it’s hard to laugh after your jaw has dropped.

George Orwell’s “1984” was challenged in Jackson County, Fla., because it was considered “pro-Communist.” Who would have imagined that the Wichita, Kans., public library would, ayatollah-like, challenge Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” for being “blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed”? In 1973, “Slaughterhouse Five” was actually burned in Drake, N.D. And Lindale, Tex., banned “To Kill a Mockingbird” from a school reading list in 1996 because it “conflicted with the values of the community” — leading one to wonder just what Lindale’s values are, and why anyone would want to live there.

Farm School, in honor of Banned Books Week, does a bang up job of nailing down the facts on the charge that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tried to ban books, when she was mayor of Wasilla (not exactly, but the details — truth is in the details).

Abby the Librarian carries another rundown of posts about Banned Books Week, including one from Mommy Madness that notes that banning books takes away a parental responsibility, giving it to the government.  (Did you catch that, Joe Leavell?)

Everybody’s Libraries carries an explanation of “Why Banned Books Week matters.

I’m Here, I’m Queer – What the Hell Do I Read? notices an uncomfortable trend, that several of the most-challenged books are challenged because they discuss homosexuality in non-condemning terms.

Cover of Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451, via Maias Blog - Just Add Coffee

Cover of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, via Maia's Blog - Just Add Coffee

Maia’s Blog – Just Add Coffee discusses Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and the irony of banning a book about banning books, in “Banned Books Week, Day 6.”  As you might imagine, this is the sixth in a series of posts.  The other books covered are Brideshead Revisited, Ivanhoe, Sons and Lovers, The Phantom Tollbooth (challenges coming, I presume, from the Taliban, al Quaeda, and Dick Cheney),  and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish gives Phillip Pullman, the author of The Golden Compass, a vent about religious objections to books.

Another roundup of Banned Books Week posts, at Books Worth Reading.

Chez Namastenancy rounds up even more, and points especially to a quiz about banned books at the venerable on-line site of the venerable British newspaper, The Guardian. (English teachers:  Can you say “bellringer?”)

Notes from Evil Bender discusses the importance of keeping ideas on the shelves of libraries, especially those ideas that some find “offensive” to “family values.”

School Library Media Activities Monthly carries this simple quote:

“Banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile.  Ideas don’t die because a book is forbidden reading.”- Gretchen Knief, librarian, protesting a proposed 1939 ban against The Grapes of Wrath

Which posts about Banned Books Week sang out to you, that I’ve missed noting here?  Comments are open — please share.


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