Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Philip Pullman: Controversy Drives Sales
In fact, when it comes to banning books, religion is the worst reason of the lot. Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of private solace, artistic inspiration, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed. The rank stench of oppression wafts from every authoritarian church, chapel, temple, mosque, or synagogue – from every place of worship where the priests have the power to meddle in the social and intellectual lives of their flocks, from every presidential palace or prime ministerial office where civil leaders have to pander to religious ones.
How The Garcia Girls Lost Henrico County
On October 7th, Henrico County, VA hosts author Julia Alvarez, whose book How the García Girls Lost Their Accents was on — and then removed from — the high school summer reading list. Despite the removal, the book remains on the 'continuing education' course list for area high school English teachers, as an example of how to use a book in education (see item SLA17038, here), but another session focusing on another Alvarez book, Finding Miracles, had been added. Those teachers who prepared for the García session were to have read the book in its entirety, then attend the CE class, before actually meeting Alvarez to further discuss...the book that the high school students will no longer be encouraged to read. Alvarez' own website would indicate that García Girls has been replaced by Something to Declare at her reading on the 7th.
Now, the kicker is this statement from the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch:
"[School Superintendent Jean] Murray noted that the selection of "How the García Girls Lost Their Accents" has not been challenged formally in Henrico. It may remain on the shelves at school libraries...And this, readers, is why Banned Books Week is so important. The inclusion of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents on the high school reading list was hardly a casual mistake. The list was first compiled by the school's literary experts. Then a course for English teachers was developed around the book's application in high school classrooms. And, then, the book's author was brought to town by the public library to coincide with the teacher's CE course and a citywide event called "All Henrico Reads". Numerous people were involved in this decision — including the author — to make the book an influential one on students at Deep Run High School. When the parent complained, their child was given an alternate book to read...but that was not enough for the parent, who enlisted the help of a School Board member to undermine the school and the public library's decision to hold up the book as an example of relevant literature to young adults, so the book was removed from the reading list. It is splitting hairs to say the book was not "contested" in the narrowest definition of the word, or that the event is irrelevant to Banned Books Week. This sort of populist, anti-intellectual act is exactly what Banned Books Week addresses.
"...[Library Director Gerald] McKenna said there were no plans to include "How the García Girls Lost Their Accents" in the county's observation of Banned Book Week, which started Saturday."
Insane Book Titles
Sunday, September 28, 2008
A Knightly Book-Lover
"It is a curious thing that so many people only go into a bookshop when they happen to need some particular book. Do they never drop in for a little innocent carouse and refreshment? There are some knightly souls who even go so far as to make their visits to bookshops a kind of chivalrous errantry at large. They go in not because they need any certain volume, but because they feel that there may be some book that needs them. Some wistful, little forgotten sheaf of loveliness, long pining away on an upper shelf—why not ride up, fling her across your charger (or your charge account), and gallop away. Be a little knightly, you book-lovers! "
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Banned Books: As Seen On TV!
The commercial over on the left is a longer version of what was aired: the Easton Press is selling the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written, finely bound in leather with gilt edges, on a subscription basis. The reason for the Twain reference in the URL is that the first book in the series, available for an introductory rate of about 15% actual price, is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
As far as a book's history goes, Huckleberry Finn takes as much from its contents as from the events revolving around it. Written as a sequel to a much more popular novel, Huck Finn took a darker, more introspective look at the Southern culture that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer took more lightly. From when Finn was first published in 1884, readers lashed out at the book, citing coarse language and uncouth demeanor of most of the characters. The repeated use of the word 'nigger' grew to a more unacceptable degree into the 1950s, and is the root (along with other negative depictions of black people) for modern attempts to censor the book. However, great minds lauded Huckleberry Finn as a masterpiece — Hemmingway declared, "...all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." With good reason, the book has been a staple of English courses, because the book combines modern literature, American history and locales, a sympathetic young character, and a touch of adventure and thrills to keep students interested. The book's critics, however, still keep Huckleberry Finn in the top ten most challenged books of late. I can't imagine Easton would be ignorant of the book's history, and the choice to make the hotly-disputed Huck Finn their loss-leader edition seems a deliberate act.
Easton, sadly, doesn't provide the list of the 100 Greatest Books, but other people have. Huck Finn isn't the only overlap when it comes to banned books: Brave New World, Of Mice and Men, Uncle Tom's Cabin, On The Origin of Species, Canterbury Tales, and numerous others (at least 20%) all appear on both the Easton's list and somebody's contested-book list. To some people, Easton's commercial on prime-time cable TV is about as bad as a Playboy subscription commercial on Nickelodeon, showing a mother and child reading from the Greatest Books library — together! In fact, children figure prominently in the commercial's cast, all shown enjoying the literature found in these books, much to the shock and dismay of those who think such smut is only found in gradeschool classrooms and public libraries. The attitude of book censors suggests that these dirty, naughty works of literature should be under the counter, bound in plain-paper, available only to those who understand what they're getting into. While I don't advocate shelling out over four grand for Easton's library, I greatly respect their decision to wrap these offensive books in fine leather and silky end-papers, make their outsides sparkle with gold, and make one of the most contested books in American literature their flagship product. Banned Books Week is here, courtesy the ALA, and those challenged books should stand out as the great works they are, and not as the small-minded opposition sees them as.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Ancient Technologies, Modern Africa
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Censoring Of Mice and Men
"It's not a pleasant part of our history," David Smith, a spokesman for the school district, told KMBC-TV. "But kids these days need opportunities to learn about it, understand it, not in a sanitized 21st-century way, because that's how we move forward in society."
via - For video of the woman announcing her dislike of the book (including a "I'm not trying to ban it") comment, KMBC has more.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Island At The End Of The World
Friday, September 19, 2008
The Meat And Gristle Within
"Some shrewd soul, who understands books, remarked some time ago on the editorial page of the Sun’s book review that no superlative on a jacket had ever done the book an atom of good. He was right, as far as the true bookster is concerned. We choose our dinner not by the wrappers, but by the veining and gristle of the meat within. "
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Agatha Christie On Tape
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Choose Your Own Adventure: College Years
Friday, September 12, 2008
Things In Buffalo Books: Three
Yes, this caused a brief creep-out moment at first, but judging from the envelope's age, this dates from at least pre-1960s, if not 1940s and earlier. The tradition is for parents to keep a sample of their children's hair as a memento of their early haircuts, so I assume that is the origin of these follicles.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Cartooning In Class
The 200-Year-Old Mystery Book
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Vander Ark's New Potter Book
Things In Buffalo Books: Two
I believe all came from the same old textbook, probably dating from the 1940s. There were a couple duplicates; most seem to have been taken at the same time, but the lower-left one is distinctly different. None have any writing on the back.
Book Love At First Sight
"There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love, and like that colossal adventure it is an experience of great social import. Even as the tranced swain, the book-lover yearns to tell others of his bliss. He writes letters about it, adds it to the postscript of all manner of communications, intrudes it into telephone messages, and insists on his friends writing down the title of the find. Like the simple-hearted betrothed, once certain of his conquest, “I want you to love her, too!” It is a jealous passion also. He feels a little indignant if he finds that any one else has discovered the book, too. He sees an enthusiastic review—very likely in The New Republic—and says, with great scorn, “I read the book three months ago.” There are even some perversions of passion by which a book-lover loses much of his affection for his pet if he sees it too highly commended by some rival critic. "
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Enough to Make a Frog Laugh!
Illustrator Palmer Cox was best known for his Brownie books, but this was one of his lesser-known collections of short poems accompanied by his illustrations. Queer People was a three-volume set of short children's books, consisting of "Wings and Stings," "Claws and Paws," and "Goblins, Giants, Merry Men and Monarchs". Unfortunately, "Wings and Stings" is the only one available, in its entirety, on Google Books. The verse is light and visually-driven, as you might expect from an illustrator, so if the other two books are anything like "Wings and Stings," I'd agree that any one of them could make a frog laugh. This ad appeared in Old Time Agriculture in the Ads, by a book distributed by none other than Cenex.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Rowling Wins Copyright Fight
Things In Buffalo Books: One
These weren't all in a single book; they were spread out among several books, mostly encyclopedias. Note the 4-leaf-clover in the upper left.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Automated Book Scanner
The machine is by Treventus, a German company. PDF brochure here.
All The Books In The World
This is a translation of a Croatian short comic about a magical bookstore that has a copy of every book in the world. Except one, of course. The purchase is far less about the book's contents, and more about what the book means to the reader -- which is the truth about most bookstore purchases to begin with. (via)
Saturday, September 06, 2008
25 Banned Books To Read
Friday, September 05, 2008
America's Most Dangerous Librarians
Librarians, however, are standing up to the invasion of their readers' privacy -- but at great risk to themselves, which paints them in a poor light in the FBI's eyes, practically terrorists themselves. While progress has been made, enforcing lawful search-and-seizure requirements for all law enforcement, terrorism focus or no, the government is still pushing the limits of Constitutional review of citizen's reading history.
Getting In The Phonebook
They even had the courtesy to contact the photographer and ask his permission. I'm impressed with the diligence of a phone book publisher, who usually aren't seen as the highest level of publishing excellence. It does show that the environment of the professional photographer is being encroached upon; in the old days there were complex licensing processes to get in contact with and permission from a pro photographer to use his or her images. CreativeCommons isn't a copyright-replacement that most people believe it is -- it's a simplified licensing process for behaving as both an amateur and a professional, which lets anybody with talent show off their work and get published without having to work too hard at it.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Banning Books Increases Exposure
Monday, September 01, 2008
Play's, Waltz's, Polkas
OK, I think they were going for "Joe Tishmack Plays Waltzes and Polkas". Let's break it down:
- Joe Tishmack: No punctuation failures, but no difficulty: zero points
- Play's: an apostrophe with a verb doesn't work -- "play is"? "play was"? A common apostrophe mistake, since 'plays' is a valid verb; minus ten points.
- Waltz's: As a plural, Waltzs doesn't work: it is waltzes for either a verb or a plural noun. Again, as with above, was their intent "Waltz is", or "Waltz was"? Wifey suggested it was a posessive contraction: Waltz has. Sadly, in context, they're all wrong. Since there's no way to accidentally use an apostrophe this way, minus thirty points.
- ...and Polkas: What, they suddenly checked Strunk & White for apostrophe usage, but couldn't go back and fix the others? They get a plus, because it could be either a noun or a verb in context (...Plays, Waltzes, and Polkas), so I'll give them +10 for getting it right despite their past efforts.