Archive for the ‘Literature’ category

Banned Books Week

September 28, 2010

Happy Banned Books Week!  Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year again when the American Library Association protests the banning of books from libraries and schools.  Join in the festivities, which started on the 25th and runs through Saturday.  That’s right, it’s actually Banned Books Week And A Day this year because we can’t protest the morality being forced on literature in just one week.

Personally, I’m against banning and restricting access to books… in most cases.  That being said, I don’t think Sex by Madonna needs to be in any high school library.  I believe that there is a place for Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov in the library, but it definitely does not belong in the children’s section.  There are many, many books that I would never read, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think others shouldn’t be able to read them.  Just about everything should be offered for reading if it exists.  (That sounds a little Google-y, but I stand by it.)

The real question is, where should the line be drawn when it comes to age-appropriateness.  The Hobbit is too violent for my 10-year old, but it’s fine for yours.  1984 has sex.  Of Mice And Men has cursing.  Harry Potter has witchcraft.  There are books in the romance section with all of those!  Should a 7th Grader be reading those romance novels.  The answer is obviously no, otherwise the middle school library would have its own romance section instead of the Judy Bloom section.  (On a side note, why is it that since the 1984 comment, I can’t stop typing “sextion” by accident?) 

That’s the reason why I say that books should not be banned or restricted in most cases.  No elementary school kid should see Playboy Magazine on the newspaper and magazine rack in the school library.  The poor girls are already getting distorted ideas about body image from the television and Katy Perry without having to see the full monty!  Obviously censorship is needed in cases of the youth of the country.  Very few would disagree with that – and those would be the same ones trying to take their 6-year olds to see Saw 3D at midnight on Halloween night.  The difficult issue is how to accurately, fairly and respectfully decide what books we permit our young people to read without our specific knowledge, and that’s an issue I don’t have any answers on.

While I try to figure that out, feel free to protest at your local public library if they don’t have Animal Farm in the catalogue, because everyone should read Animal Farm, although perhaps not in kindergarten.


On writing development

April 14, 2010

I hopped on WordPress this morning to add a tag to a couple of back posts.  I was looking through some of the recent posts to see which ones needed the tag and noticed something:  I actually don’t dislike reading what I’ve posted.  I was shocked!  I remember when I used my old blog; I went back once to read some of my early posts.  I couldn’t stand them.

I never much liked my writing in school either.  Why did I never do rough drafts or revise anything that wasn’t marked in red ink?  The answer is that it would have required going back and actually reading what I had written in order to make real revisions.  I was always told that I had a talent with writing, but I never saw it.  Who knows.  Maybe if I had actually gone back to rewrite, I would have seen it in the final version of papers.  Then again, maybe if I had read more – or something other than J.R.R. Tolkien or Dr. Suess* – I would have had something more to emulate in my writing.  Perhaps fewer of my papers would have had rhyme schemes as well.

Actually, one of the reasons that I started blogging years ago was to improve my writing.  (Obviously, I also wanted to broadcast my entire life to the world like the complete narcissist that I am.)  One of the things they – whoever “they” are – say you have to do to get better at something is practice.  I think that has apparently been true because my writing seems to be much better.  This is so much the case that I will probably start preparing my entry for Sunday evening today and go back to revise it on Sunday.  Then again, I could just be much less picky about what I read.

* I still think that The Butter Battle Book is one of the best and most underrated books about the Cold War division and arms escalation as well as the ramifications of ideologies that are isolated from each other.

Not all those who wander are lost.

March 12, 2010

This line is taken from the first part of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  It’s been one of my favorite sayings ever since I first read it in middle school.  I was that geek who sat in the lunch room with a huge book.  Granted, lunch was nearly the only time I read for fun, so it took me two years to get through The Lord of the Rings and then The Hobbit.  Since then, I’ve read them several times, and always in that order.

Taken alone, the line says it’s okay to take a minute to look around.  I think this touched me strongly because I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder just months before I read this for the first time.  I felt like Tolkien was telling me, personally, that it is okay to take in whatever is in the world.  I didn’t have to hate myself for not being focused all the time.  There is so much to do and see in the world that it’s alright to be distracted.

Of course, that is taking the line out of context.  It is actually a part of a letter in the form of a poem that goes:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes of a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

It’s a poetic description of a man that the four travel-weary hobbits are to soon meet.  His name is Aragorn, and he is the heir to the throne of Gondor, although he travels as an outlaw known as Strider.  He is far from shiny and golden when they meet.  He also wanders through the wilderness with his friends/family.  He has no place to be at any certain time.  Although he always knows where he is, he is often traveling without a destination in mind.  Most would view him as lost because of this.  Instead he merely wanders, seeing what there is to see and experiencing whatever he can find.

This is an idea that largely appeals to me.  To be able to wander without having to worry about being somewhere.  To travel and see whatever comes along.  There’s the world’s biggest ball of yarn thirty miles to the west?  I’ll go see it.  See Rock City?  I don’t mind if I do.  I head off to see the beaches of Vancouver, but I end up visiting the Gulf coast instead.

To wander and not be lost is an idea that I love, but I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to live it.