- The Censor in the Why: An interesting commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at how, while the late J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has consistently faced parental objections when assigned in schools, the nature of those complaints has changed somewhat in the past few decades, from complaints about profanity to anti-Christian sentiment.
The piece starts off with a great call to arms that perhaps should be embossed on the cover of every book ever printed:
"Books should offend you," a professor told my literature class 30 years ago, when I started college. "They should make you squirm and sweat. They should keep you up at night."
The wrap-up is pretty stirring, too:
[A]ll great literature offends someone. I can easily understand why Huck Finn makes African Americans uncomfortable (and I would hope it would make whites a bit nervous, too).
But I can't understand why we need to shield our kids from these bad feelings. Why, oh why, must everybody feel good? Literature should make us squirm and sweat, because that's when we really start to learn about the world, which is a messy and disquieting place.
So go ahead, get angry at these books. Yell, scream, and even curse if you want. Just don't deny kids the same experience.
Of course, for plenty of kids, just having to read the assigned books is reason enough to scream and curse...
Book News Round-up:
- All week long, the website 5 Chapters is running an excerpt from Sam Lipsyte's new novel The Ask — in (you guessed it) five parts.
- NPR's Alan Cheuse reviews two new novels based on the poetry of Homer (no, not Simpson; the one who wrote The Odyssey and The Iliad): Ransom by David Malouf and The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason.
- Writing for the Daily Beast, Stanley Crouch examines why Ralph Ellison never published another book after Invisible Man.
- Do you have to read The Mayo Clinic Diet, the bestselling diet book in the country? The Daily Beast's William Boot says yes, you can: "This is a diet for an optimistic age, for those who still believe in the audacity of hope."
- The New York Times wonders, "Could book publishers suddenly be in the position of telling Google what to do?"
- PC World examines why ebooks have to cost more than $9.99... even if it means ebook owners charge the gates of Publishing City brandishing torches and pitchforks.
- ZDNet wonders how big the book-reading market for the iPad really is, anyway.
- Authors, be advised: As demonstrated by this GalleyCat review of Rebecca Skloot's new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, your Facebook fan page comments and Twitter tweets can and may be used against (or even for) you in a book review.
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Chris Bolton co-created the all-ages webcomic Smash, which will soon be published by Candlewick Press, and created the comedy series Wage Slaves. His short story "The Red Room" was published in Portland Noir from Akashic Books.
Books mentioned in this post