Friday, September 30, 2011

More Thoughts on Banned Books Week

As promised, I have more fun Banned Books Week content from the Open Road Media folks to bookend the week's celebration. Did anyone read a banned book this week? Anyone discover a book that's been banned or challenged that really surprised you? I think they stopped surprising me after I learned people have tried to ban Shel Silverstein's poetry from A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC for ridiculous reasons like, "A suggestive illustration that might encourage kids to break dishes so they won't have to dry them." Alrighty then.

But enough about my thoughts, let's see what our final three authors have to say about books that have been banned:

Loren D. Estleman is the award-winning author of more than sixty-five novels, including mysteries and westerns. His most enduring character, Amos Walker, has been featured in twenty novels and his adventure novel, The High Rocks was nominated for a National Book Award. Before “sounding off” on which banned books surprised him the most, Estleman thanked us for “sending the latest list of The Damned”.

I’m never surprised by any of the choices, however innocuous some of them may seem. There will always be pinch-brained bigots who aren’t satisfied just to take offense at a thing, but to keep everyone else from being exposed to it, and since these days the censorship comes from left as well as right, there’s no mystery of the length of the list.

I’ve read many, although, not most, of these books, and in some cases (1984, In Cold Blood, The Sun Also Rises) have re-read them more than once. The best ones make me reconsider my world or take me far away from it; but these are all my favorites if they spike the blood pressure – fatally, perhaps – of the human slime that would set a match to them.

I don’t waste time getting angry over the choices, because it infuriates me that any book should be banned for any reason. This is America. Our society was founded on the principle that no idea is as dangerous as any action taken to silence it. 

Edgar award-winning author Jonathon King is the creator of the Max Freeman crime series. A police and court reporter for twenty-four years with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and Philadelphia Daily News, King talks about his favorite book on the banned list.

My favorite on the list is East of Eden, which I’ve read several times, and if it’s banned for some reason, pity. Louis L'Amour said: “Shakespeare's work has lived as long as it has because he dealt with normal human emotions; envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed and so on. These are the basic drives among us humans and are with us forever.”

Put all those things in a story and you’ve got East of Eden. If you want to ban literary depictions of those emotions, put your head in the sand because you’ve got nothing. 

Stephen Rebello is a screenwriter, journalist, and the author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which has been bought by Paramount Pictures and The Montecito Picture Company for production as a dramatic feature film. The horror film expert speaks out on the topic of banning books as it relates to Capote, Hitchcock, and more.

Banning books? What a pointless, wrong-headed, and flat-world pursuit. I’m with the much-censored Mark Twain who wrote, “the truth is, that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.” One of my very favorites on the list of so-called “banned books” is In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s brilliant, bone-freezing nonfiction novel about the killing of the Clutter family in rural Holcomb, Kansas. The prose is beautifully lean and disciplined. Its documentary-like, you-are-there atmosphere is palpable. Evil has rarely seemed so banal, terrifying, and heartbreaking. I sometimes tend to bracket director RichardBrooks’ very good film version of In Cold Blood with certain aspects of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Robert Bloch’s Psycho—a dark, nasty, despairing novel so many claim to have read but clearly haven’t. Both Brooks’ and Hitchcock’s films have eloquent, moody black-and-white cinematography, of course, but they also share a tough, bleak, unsparing view of the way the world works. They’re works of great outrage and compassion. Bloch’s novel has apparently never been high profile enough to land on “banned” lists, but Hitchcock’s notorious and phenomenally successful 1960 movie brought on cries for censorship by a number of church organizations and at least one publicity-happy, barnstorming psychiatrist who, rumor had it, Hitchcock cleverly and quietly bought off. All that said, nothing I’ve written to date has been banned. But rest assured, on my new stuff, I’m working very hard to rectify this oversight. 

While everyone has books they think are inappropriate or wrong, when we start banning books from libraries and schools and whatnot, there's no line or stopping point. Any book becomes fair game. The true power against things such as racism or sexism or violence isn't limiting access to books that might contain them, it's educating our young people. This week recognizes our citizens' rights to read what they choose to read. Many thanks to the authors of Open Road Media who helped us highlight this week and its importance to our society.

Happy Reading - because you CAN!


Evelyn September 30, 2011 at 3:28 PM  

Thanks for supporting our freedom to read!

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