- Sometimes you need to keep an even keel about an issue. You need to look at a controversy from both sides, try to empathize with those whose opinions you don't necessarily agree with, and reach some informed compromise in order to achieve a greater understanding of one another.
And other times you realize people are just idiots.
Case in point: a hearing was held Wednesday night in Marshall, Missouri, to determine whether two graphic novels should be removed from the public library for sexually explicit subject matter, which to some folks instantly equals "pornography." The graphic novels in question are Blankets by Craig Thompson and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
"But, wait!" you cry. "Aren't those two of the best graphic novels of the past decade? Aren't they insightful, brilliantly done, and gorgeously illustrated? Aren't Craig Thompson and Alison Bechdel kind of f--king amazing?"
You are correct on all counts.
However, Louise Mills, the fine, upstanding woman who originated the complaint, has a different take on them:
"My concern does not lie with the content of the novels, rather my concern is with the illustrations and their availability to children and the community." Mills said.
Well, she might have something there. Both books contain adult content of a sexual nature and they were displayed in the new arrival section of the library. I don't mean to imply that innocent children might get naughty ideas from the dirty, dirty pictures of dirty nekkid bodies — but rather, that some dumb teenage boys (I know; I was one) might completely misinterpret the sublime illustrations and get hours of dumb teenage snickering out of them.
And then, after a reasonably thoughtful opening salvo, Mills plummets off the deep end:
"Does this community want our public library to continue to use tax dollars to purchase pornography?" Mills asked the crowd. "We may as well purchase the porn shop down at the junction and move it to Eastwood. Some day this library will be drawing the same clientele..."
Buh... wha?! How did she get to the moon and back so fast?
How could anyone read Blankets and Fun Home and mistake them for spank books?
And if they do, you have to admit — that's a high class of pervert. That's really the kind of pervert we want in our public libraries, rather than the sort who's just using the free Internet to download porn and then leaving dirty notes in the children's books, right?
Well, thank God other people in Marshall have a good sight more reason than Ms. Mills. Like Sarah Aulgur, for instance.
"I don't want seedy people coming into the library and moving into our community," Aulgur said.
Because, truthfully, once seedy people find out there are dirty porno comics in the public library, they're gonna pack up and head out in droves. We're talking wagon trains of drooling pervs from all across the country, converging on poor, unsuspecting Marshall, Missouri. It's as though the Apocalypse is tapping, gently rapping at their door.
Just in time to save the day, other citizens stepped forward with more reasoned opinions.
"If it shouldn't be on a billboard on I-70, it shouldn't be in a public library," Mark Lockhart said.
You know, I've always said that. I firmly believe, for instance, that the entire text of War and Peace ought to be shrunk down and pasted on a billboard on I-70, for all to enjoy as they speed past. Some of that Russian lit can be a little dizzying at 65 mph, I grant you, but then you just take the next exit, swing around, and keep circling 'til you get it.
The article in the Marshall Democrat-News notes that a "small number of citizens at the meeting spoke in support of the library," which means the rest of the smart people in Marshall stayed at home on Wednesday night to watch the season premiere of Lost. Shame on you, smart people! What do you think Tivo's for? (Although, if I'd missed that opening where we see the suburban neighborhood and everything seems normal and then there's the bang and we find out these "normal" people are the Others and their little suburban enclave is in the middle of the island, for God's sake... but I digress.)
A decision will be made next Wednesday night. I entreat anyone who has a brain in Marshall to come to the meeting and stand in support of these books. And if there are any "seedy individuals" who enjoy freedom of speech and can't stand the thought of someone walking to the porn shop at the junction to buy Blankets and Fun Home (which would surely be their lowest sellers), I urge you to converge on the town of Marshall and let your opinion be known (raincoats optional).
We now return you to our regularly scheduled Book News, already in progress.
- Tonight's guest on The Colbert Report is Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, author of The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and The Media That Love Them.
What's the matter, frowny-face? Iraq War got you down? Feeling all bluesy-woozy over that new Bob Woodward book that suggests our whole country is going somewhere hot in a handbasket?
Well, cheer up, America — Colbert's keeping a chart that documents how thoroughly the Nobel Committee loves us, and how much we kick the rest of the world's collective butts. Wooooo!!
- Hey, all you parents with stubborn teenagers — there's finally a conclusive argument to convince your kids to go to college. Here's a hint: the fine folks of Marshall, Missouri, ain't gonna like it. (Via Ed Rants, which should perhaps be moved to that porn shop down at the junction.)
- And just to prove I don't have some kind of personal vendetta against the city of Marshall, Missouri, here is a woman from the small town of Atlanta, Georgia, who seems likely to become Louise Mills's new best friend. I picture the two of them spending many a lovely weekend in the countryside together, drinking cider and laughing heartily and ripping out objectionable passages from books together.
It's really the together part that's so important. Censorship, stupidity, and insanity bringing people... together. That's what books are all about.
- This edition of Book News is brought to you by the good folks at CitizenLink.com, where the focus is always on the family. Check out their ongoing piece of investigative journalism that explores the blatantly fraudulent hoax that was Banned Books Week. Because, as we've learned today, book censorship is just another chewy hunk of granola-flavored liberal progaganda smothered in the creamy-smooth lies of the devil.
CitizenLink.com — we don't just burn books, we incinerate them with the fire of Jesus's love.
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Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.
The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.
Books mentioned in this post