A Fayetteville woman is the new hero of the Farenheit 451 bunch. She’s demanding that the school library there — and school libaries all over — clean their shelves of books that she considers inappropriate for children. So far she’s named just 70 titles. What do you bet more are on the way?
It doesn’t take much to get on her list, apparently. According to a news article, she wants to protect children — hers, yours, all of them — from books that treat a broad range of topics that youngsters shouldn’t be worrying their pretty little heads about.
Make no mistake, I think her crusade is wrong-headed and even dangerous, but I should admit a sympathetic pang. I’ve got some adorable grandchildren and don’t like to think of their having to ponder that ancestors of theirs had long tails and red butts and swung in trees. Or their having to come to terms with difficult matters like homo v. hetero in the mating department. Grown people — even wise grown people — have a hard enough time with that one.
Surely it makes us look bad in their little eyes to force upon them an awareness of the worldly crud. If we could just shield them from it all a while longer — maybe start introducing them to it gradually, say at age 25 — then they’d think more of us, and we might even think more of ourselves. It’s encouraging or consoling to think so, anyway, and that’s how well-intentioned, pernicious little crusades like this one in Fayetteville gain big followings.
I expect the 70 candidates for the bonfire will soon become 70 times seven, because once you get into the censorial spirit, few tomes escape your inquisitorial eye. For example, I’ve got a small shelf of old favorites above my writing machine here, and I can see our Athens of the Ozarks zealotress making a case against the lot of them.
Let me make it for her, just against the first ten.
“Don Quixote de la Mancha,” by Miguel Cervantes. Nothing really explicit here but those two guys sure spend a lot of time horsing and assing around together. If you don’t know what that means, ask your child. Your child will know, precisely because such books as this hoary old number are so accessible..
“The Hamlet,” by William Faulkner. Story line is, idiot boy falls in love with a cow! And after a prolonged courtship he and the cow perform, er, uh, certain acts, with all these grotesque rednecks standing around gawking at them and making wisecracks.
“Lolita,” by Vladimir Nabakov. Here’s the story of a pedo perv a thousand times pervier than Michael Jackson ever thought of being. And we’re supposed to admire him? Or pity him? Or what?
“Crime and Punishment,” by Fyodor Dostoevski. Young hero chops up an old granny with an axe just for kicks, and young readers might be pardoned for inferring this moral: They don’t write books about you for NOT chopping up Granny.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Have you looked to see what words they’re including in the ordinary standard dictionary these days? They’re not leaving any of the bad ones out. The 4-letter ones, the 5-letter ones, the 10-letter one that “Deadwood” just about wore out, the12-letter all-purpose mofo. You couldn’t black them all out if you tried. And why should you have to try?
“Portnoy’s Complaint,” by Philip Roth. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. A whole book about a boy who plays with himself, and grows up to be a man who plays with himself. And doesn’t go blind. Isn’t crushed by guilt. Suffers none of the proverbial consequences.
“Leaves of Grass,” by Walt Whitman. All this talk of “manly love” in these poems, well, let’s just say it’s not the kind between one man and one woman required by our newly revised marriage laws (and probably soon our Constitution).
“Elmer Gantry,” by Sinclair Lewis. So maybe the point here isn’t that all clergymen are pious frauds, but a young naïve reader sure might that that idea. And require reprogramming, brain rewashing, in order to understand that not everybody in the pulpit is that way, that there are some fine folks there, such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggert, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller, Randall Terry, John Hagee, Happy Caldwell, Benny Hinn, Al Sharpton, Bernard Law…
“Moby Dick,” by Herman Melville. You don’t have to look past the title to know why the homos rave.
“Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll. You knew it had to go on the burn list when the message on the cupcake was the same one on the Animal House parade float. Can’t have young’uns reading that.
Or the legend that Holden Caulfield knows will be graffitied onto his tombstone. Or various of the Hogwarts incantations. Or Huck Finn’s cracker riffs on skin color. Or australopithecine intimations of a mighty long descent. Or the soft porn of the Song of Songs. Or “On Humanism” by J.S. Mill. Or …
This coming off of one little shelf in one little den out here in Stickville, Geezerland.
They gonna need an awful big fire.