I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
--Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.I'm not sure where I stand on this. It's true that it forces people to. . . do stuff and keep doing stuff, but it also makes happiness into a dangling carrot. Maybe it's not that way for everyone who wants and wants. I guess it depends on what it is you want and how you propose to get it.
--John Steinbeck, The Pearl
1. The list of the top 100 challenged or banned books from 1990 - 2000 is here: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/
2. Which of those books, if any, had a strong effect on you -- either positive or negative? How did they affect you?
Yes, the lone nude sunbather in Where's Waldo? caused me to be attracted to women! (Um...that is not true. I never even knew there was a nude sunbather in there until I asked someone why it was banned.)
I really enjoyed I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,and it gave me enormous respect for Maya Angelou. I also love Lois Lowry's books (The Giver and Anastasia Krupnik). I think I sort of model myself after Anastasia sometimes. Also for awhile my mom cooked cholent (stew-dish with meat and beans) with the meat inside a stocking to keep it together. We got this idea from one of the Anastasia books.
Bridge to Terebithia made me cry, which doesn't happen often.
3. Have you ever been personally affected by or involved in a challenge or a ban of a book? If yes, tell us a bit about it.
My school censored parts of The Crucible. I think it was the part where a boy and girl hold hands behind a shed. Also, they cut out the pages with some statistics & the chapters about sex and prostitution in a book in our school library.
I wasn't allowed to do a book report on Franny and Zooey because Salinger also wrote Catcher in the Rye (my teacher just wanted to play it safe, and I acquiesced. I'm sure she has read both books.) My friend's cousin got The Red Pony removed from the curriculum because it has a scene where the horses mate.
And they didn't censor Hamlet when I was in school, but in succeeding years they cut out some pages and replaced them with "clean" dialogue. It's a tiny bit possible that I caused this, 'cause I pointed out to a younger friend the whole bit about "post/With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!" or something. She and I laughed about it, but it's entirely possible that until she drew people's attention to it, no one had noticed.
These things haven't really affected me, in truth, because I've always been allowed to read whatever I want and to wander around the library picking out my own books. There were girls in my school for whom this was not the case, though.
4. Have you ever read a book that you felt should have been banned? If yes, why?
The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, because it is a font of misinformation in girls' religious schools. Okay, not really *banned*, just removed from use as a textbook. I don't endorse book-banning.
5. How do you feel about the banning of books? Is it an important issue to you?
I strongly disagree with book banning.
My feelings are pretty much the same as they were two years ago: censorship is bad, 'kay?
But something a little beyond that, something I'm working on keeping in mind lately, is that it's a two-way street. Most of the books on the banned books list were challenged for things I have no problem with: mention of sexuality, abortion, offensive language, etc. Fighting censorship with regards to things I disagree with doesn't come as naturally, but it's probably just as important.The ALA gives a nice little quote:
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
--JS Mill (who seems to have had a comma fetish)
So, um, go read a banned book? I liked I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings much more than I'd expected, so try reading that, maybe. I'm gonna stick to the book I've been reading about the history of homosexuality and American psychiatry, which I'm sure plenty of censor-happy people would object to if they'd ever encountered it.
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”
--John Milton, Paradise Lost
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me
it is a prison.
Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too
narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all 'hues' in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.
Online Etymology Dictionary (a superb resource, incidentally) informs me that the "earliest recorded use [of "prick"] for "penis" is 1592. My prick was used 16c.-17c. as a term of endearment by "immodest maids" for their boyfriends."
He was flying in formation, that day, with another plane. When Grey realized something was wrong with his plane, he radioed the other pilot.
'You're on your own,' Grey said.
Then he crashed and died.
I think about those words a lot. They're a reminder.
We're all on our own, aren't we? That's what it boils down to.
We come into this world on our own--in Hawaii, as I did, or New York, or China, or Africa, or Montana--and we leave it in the same way, on our own, wherever we happen to be at the time--in a plane, in our beds, in a a car, in a space shuttle, or in a field of flowers.
And between those times, we try to connect along the way with others who are also on their own.
If we're lucky, we have a mother who reads to us.
We have a teacher or two along the way who make us feel special.
We have dogs who do the stupid dog tricks we teach them and who lie on our bed when we're not looking, because it smells like us, and so we pretend not to notice the paw prints on the bedspread.
We have friends who lend us their favorite books.
Maybe we have children, and grandchildren, and funny mailmen, and eccentric great-aunts, and uncles who can pull pennies out of our ears.
All of them teach us stuff. They teach us about combustion engines and the major products of Bolivia, and what poems are not boring, and how to be kind to each other, and how to laugh, and when the vigil is in our hands, and when we just have to make the best of things even though it's hard sometimes.
Looking back together, telling our stories to one another, we learn how to be on our own.
from Looking Back: a book of memories, by Lois Lowry.