On the other hand…

…now this is a success strategy:

Irate parents demanded last night that the school board and administrators take action over stories assigned in Campbell High School English classes that they found objectionable, including stories by authors Stephen King, David Sedaris and Ernest Hemingway.

The stories included Sedaris’ “I Like Guys,” which deals with homosexuality; “The Crack Cocaine Diet” by Laura Lippman, which includes explicit sexual material, rape, murder and drug use; a Hemingway short story that includes statutory rape and discussion about abortion; and a King story called “Survivor Type.”

I once met an author, who when I told him I liked his book replied, “Please, then call your local library and demand it be taken off the shelves.” Lucky Laura!

Posted at 12:05 pm in Uncategorized |

42 responses to “On the other hand…”

  1. coozledad said on June 18, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    It’s best just to let coach “Hog” Hall teach them Americanism versus Communism and Driver’s ed, let them share an algebra book and send them home with Bible homework. That’s all they need to know to clean toilets for the Chinese anyway.

    EDIT: My wife says Hawg was how he spelled it.

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  2. LAMary said on June 18, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    In spite of “adult themes” and some raunchy words, I let my son read a David Sedaris book I had read. My son was probably about 13 at the time and I doubt there was anything in there he hadn’t heard before. There was something good about hearing him laughing at the same things that made me laugh. Especially a piece about learning about holiday traditions in French class.

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  3. brian stouder said on June 18, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    “The Crack Cocaine Diet” by Laura Lippman, which includes explicit sexual material, rape, murder and drug use;

    Ha! As I recall, that particular story leads off the collection of short stories – and it’s not as ‘disturbing’ as a later one set in New Orleans, with a dancing girl in a pony suit. Honestly, though, I don’t remember any rapes in any of the stories.

    If our almost-11 year old or almost-14 year old wants to read it, she or he’s welcome to

    Just began reading my copy of What the Dead Know (signed in Caramel) yesterday, and I’m sure it will be well and truly “objectionable”! (I recall reading that Ms Lippman’s significant other found her collection of short stories to be rather dark and disturbing, himself!)

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  4. deb said on June 18, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    today’s teenagers have been exposed to way more stuff than we ever were, despite what the book-censorship crowd likes to think. the exposure my kids have received — much of it through their catholic schools, mind you — has been much broader and challenging than anything i experienced at my public high school in the early 1970s. what’s more, they are surrounded by gay and lesbian kids who are out and proud, and to them they are just other kids. it’s totally no big deal. i think there’s still a school of thought out there that just reading about this stuff will “turn” them somehow. ridiculous.

    i hid “valley of the dolls” under my mattress when i was in junior high, and it never drove me to a debauchery and pills. well, not to pills, anyway.

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  5. deb said on June 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    oh, and LA mary, i had my kid read the same sedaris book, with similar results. it’s so cool when you can share the same yuks and know they get it. “he nice, the jesus” still makes me laugh.

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  6. Julie Robinson said on June 18, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Dad was a journalist and Mom a librarian, so despite their conservative politics, censorship was a very dirty word. I feel the same way and have never limited my kids’ reading although there was a brief time I wished my daughter would elevate above Harlequin romances.

    For anyone who feels different, but for kids in small towns especially, books are how they learn about the world beyond the narrow view of those around them.

    Personally I’ve never read a book so disturbing I couldn’t sleep. Can’t say the same for a lot of movies.

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  7. Connie said on June 18, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    And a group of parents in West Bend WI are up in arms about young adult books that contain gasp sex, homosexuality, and other evil topics. I’ve been following this in the library press and it sounds even worse than the usual uptight parent in the library uproar. Read more about it: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2009/06/16/francesca_lia_block/index.html

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  8. Sue said on June 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    “i think there’s still a school of thought out there that just reading about this stuff will “turn” them somehow”
    Yeah, we’re still fighting the masses of people who read Harry Potter and turned into devil-worshiping practitioners of the dark arts. Wait, no, that’s only what the pamphlets that were left around the library said was going to happen.
    “Personally I’ve never read a book so disturbing I couldn’t sleep”
    I have. Helter Skelter scared the dickens out of me and the description of “creepy crawly” (breaking into someone’s house and just moving things around while they slept) had me wide awake for months after.

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  9. Lex said on June 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    i hid “valley of the dolls” under my mattress when i was in junior high, and it never drove me to a debauchery

    Nothing drove me; I could see it clearly enough to walk run to it.

    Personally I’ve never read a book so disturbing I couldn’t sleep.

    Sue, “Helter Skelter” did it for me also. In fact, I read it when it first came out in paperback, which must’ve been 35 years ago now, and I still get the creeps when I think about it.

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  10. 4dbirds said on June 18, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    “Personally I’ve never read a book so disturbing I couldn’t sleep.” Two that kept me awake not only because I couldn’t put them down but because both had characters who haunted me.

    1. In Cold Blood
    2. Sophie’s Choice

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  11. Sue said on June 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Connie, it’s settling down but still an embarrassment to West Bend. It could have been worse if it took off, because they wanted to go county-wide (evidenced by “dropoff points” for petitions throughout the county). The “recalcitrant” library board members who were kicked off by the Council are an attorney, a high-school English teacher, a university librarian and a language arts teacher. The longest-serving was 24 years. A council member during this mess publicly compared the library to a porn shop. Eighteen people stepped forward to volunteer for the board. One didn’t even have a library card and three hadn’t renewed library cards within the last year. One alderman assured the others that the new members represented a more diverse background, meaning no degrees in education, and also felt it was necessary to mention the church affiliation of one of the new members. What happened to some of the library employees, at work and outside of work, has bordered on harassment.
    The amusing part of this was watching the ‘protect our children’ group frantically distancing themselves from the Christian Civil Liberties Union. Open the door and then express surprise at what pops out? What did you think would happen?
    Like I said, an embarrassment. But not at all surprising.

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  12. MarkH said on June 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Lex, Sue, prior to Helter Skelter, Ed Sanders wrote “The Family”, same subject, and that’s what did it for me. I was sleep-deprived for weeks, it seemed. Heard every creak and bump in the house at night; 1971, when I was 19. Yes, 4d, Capote’s work did it as well.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on June 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Sophie’s Choice didn’t disturb me as a book but the movie devastated me. We saw it about the same time as Das Boot (The Boat) and the images haunted my nightmares. Something about the visual images triggers my brain in ways that words alone don’t.

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  14. Dexter said on June 18, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Perhaps some here haven’t read David Sedaris? Here’s one of his stories:


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  15. Dave said on June 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Pet Sematary by Stephen King kept me up and jars back into my head occasionally. When the father dug up his son, I found it almost unreadable and placed it aside for awhile.

    I’ve never read the books about Manson because I didn’t think I could make it through.

    It’s said that King didn’t particularly like that book but wrote it to overcome his own fears. Overcoming your fears by putting words to paper?

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  16. Jolene said on June 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Are you as annoyed as I am by all the Republicans on TV calling out President Obama for not making loud, explicit, and repeated statements challenging the government of Iran? For the past few years, these creeps have been calling for military action against Iran, without regard for the effects of bombing on the population. Now, they are worried about the integrity of Iranian elections and the civil rights of our besieged Persian friends. Infuriating.

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  17. LAMary said on June 18, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Sue, me too on the creepy crawly. I was living alone in garden apartment when I read it, and it scared the hell out of me. Last year at a job fair, I met a woman with the last name “Bugliosi.” I asked her if she was related to Vincent, and she said that he was her father. I told her to let her father know that he caused insomnia thirty something years ago.

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  18. Jolene said on June 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for reminding me of that David Sedaris piece, Dexter. Very funny.

    One of our regulars was disturbed by what a good actor President Obama was revealed to be when he did his bit for the recent Stephen Colbert in Iraq series. The disturbingness came from the idea that you don’t necessarily want political leaders to be so adept at lying. Here’s a piece of video showing the filming of that bit. Nothing too exciting, but, assuming we’re getting an unedited version, it does show that Obama needed only one take to get it right.

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  19. Scout said on June 18, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Me four (or five?) on freaking out over Helter Skelter. It is absolutely the most frightening book I ever read. When I read it my ex-hub was working 2nd shift and I was fine. It was the next week, after I finished the book and he went on midnight shift that all of a sudden there were wierd noises and shadows and faces in the window…gawd, it was over 30 years ago and I can still remember the creeps I had. I couldn’t even listen to HS by the Beatles after that without flashbacks.

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  20. deb said on June 18, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    sue, you seem to know a lot about this west bend dustup. are you a cheesehead, too? (i can say that with impunity, i think, having lived in wisconsin for 24 years now.)

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  21. moe99 said on June 18, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Dave, Pet Sematary did it for me too. I have not read another book by King since. I’ve tried, but I don’t get his writing style.

    Today, I missed getting off my bus to work because I was so deep into my book. That has never happened to me and I am just exhilarated to have a book that is so absorbing and so much fun. It’s the book I ordered from amazon.co.uk and it’s by an English author named Joe Abercrombie. Kind of a blue collar George RR Martin. His first series is The First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings) and it was a real barn burner. I emailed him at the end of it because I was perturbed by the ending and he wrote back! His new book is in the same sort of sleazy medieval type universe of Styria and it’s titled Best Served Cold.

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  22. MarkH said on June 18, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    ANOTHER LAMary brush with fame (sort of).

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  23. Scout said on June 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    After finishing Susan Jane Gilman’s book Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, I stumbled across her name on Facebook, wrote a friend request and voila! we’re “friends!” I really enjoyed Undress – it’s a good summer travel read.

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  24. alex said on June 18, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    I remember in the seventh grade, at Howe Military School, having to read some crap fiction in which there were Italian characters in some sordid setting and some guy saying the memorable line “I puncha you tits” and some other sort of derangements to the pussy. And then I had to give an oral report on it and keep it clean. This was a school, after all, where the code of conduct required us to “refrain from all impure thoughts.”

    The teacher, although a puritanical old bitch who’d get you written up for looking at her the wrong way (and nobody looked at her that way, by the way), was obviously of the school of thought that the world’s a marketplace of ideas and all of those ideas were welcome in the library. This was a school where religious and military obedience were enforced with brutality, but even so the library and the marketplace of ideas were sacrosanct. They evidently figured you could be exposed to all of it but beaten into submission anyway.

    (Dex recently had a grandson graduate from there. I got the hell out before I could become an alumnus and had enough credits to graduate a year early from a public high school in a state ranked at the low end of its expectations for competence of any sort. Dex had some praise for Howe School also—a commencement speaker worth hearing, which is kind of along the lines of a real library, glad to hear. Howe School, it is safe to say, made me an atheist. Its trove of history books was where I got it, where it clicked. Or perhaps it was those in high relief against a backdrop of religious mumbo jumbo writ large.)

    Re: Obama on Iran. He’s playing it smart. If he’s seen as taking one side or another it jeopardizes his bargaining position with the eventual victor, and it could very well jeopardize the outcome. Let’s hope that liberal democracy prevails over totalitarian theocracy. And let’s pray that twitters and tweets prove useful somehow, even though any sane person in a relatively stable nation cannot be bothered with them.

    That’s right, you heard me say let us pray. I’m going back to Episcopalianism. That’s where I seen the light.

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  25. LAMary said on June 18, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    I think we should have a discussion some day what made those of us who are atheists, atheists. Likely it wouldn’t be pretty, but it would be interesting.

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  26. 4dbirds said on June 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    I’d enjoy that discussion Mary.

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  27. beb said on June 18, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I could never understand how, if God was loving and forgiving, he could send all people born before Jesus to hell.

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  28. Colleen said on June 18, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Another Helter Skelter person. And I have a freakish attraction to murder and mayhem books….not that one….no way….shudder.

    Why are people so freaked about books? And they seem more freaked now than when I was in school. I don’t remember any kind of effort to get books taken out of the library, or have curriculum changed. The only uproar I remember was a small one when Judy Blume’s “Forever” was first out….and that was because we were passing it around in class. We were basically told not to bring it to class.

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  29. alex said on June 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    For me it was just being sent away somewhere to have something fixed that wasn’t broken. (Or rather to be schooled in the old school, where the wife you take is your chattel slave and if you don’t fuck her nobody’s gonna know because you’re all too invested in appearances to go there.) I am blessed (to use a word that doesn’t exist in my family) to have a husband so loving and giving that my elderly parents no longer care. They’re doubtless grateful my spouse isn’t a shrewish, unfucked woman who resents my time away from her with them, and in fact someone who genuinely cares about their comfort in their old age and actively contributes to it. It’s been a learning experience for all and I harbor no grudges.

    They say the roles reverse when the parental units get old, and I can say I’ve been there. And if it weren’t for my unique set of life experiences, I wouldn’t have become such a positive role model to my old-school folks.

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  30. Elaine said on June 18, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    King’s “The Shining” is still the only book that ever scared me during the daytime. The scene with the boy in the hotel room with the shower curtain still gives me chills.

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  31. MichaelG said on June 18, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I’ve been so seriously scared so many times in real life that I can’t conceive of a book wigging me out. I guess you never know, though.

    Alex, it sounds like you have something rare and beautiful going. Best of luck and – – wait a sec – – I just raised a glass.

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 18, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    L’chaim, as well.

    Nothing makes as many atheists as us believers; fortunately, God has many other avenues to roll along, no matter how much directional signage we put up saying “This road one way” or “No outlet.”

    But when you see a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, a little voice inside your head should tell you not to get in.

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  33. alex said on June 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Jeff tmmo, what am I to make of all these fish stickers on Volvos and BMWs? The crunchy costume is no longer a safe haven. If I ask Ms. Little Black Dress in the 5 series for a light I might well get assailed for my low-rentness. If I approach a GM product in the same price range I might get smashed in the teeth for my fagness. What’s a poor midwesterner to do?

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  34. Deborah said on June 19, 2009 at 12:07 am

    I have been totally obsessed with the Manson stuff still, not positively but negatively. I think that the 60s, when I came of age, had it’s dark side, and Manson was it. I have actually visited the ranch in Death Valley where Manson was captured (mouse turds everywhere). Saw the cabinet where he hid (tiny, tiny) he was caught because a few strands from his long hair were revealed on the outside unknown to him. It was creepy, creepy being there but the off road ride out there was amazing. I read the book “Helter Skelter”. and I remember the events all so vividly as they were reported when they happened because it was such a shattering of my world view.

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 19, 2009 at 12:37 am

    There’s a certain upper-middle suburban zone where a megachurchy affiliation is a pose that has about as much depth to it as the Eddie Bauer badge on the Ford Expedition, and the faith behind it goes about as far as the SUV will ever go off blacktop.

    That’s broadbrushing the other way, but i’m more than willing to admit it’s a stereotype with some validity to it, and you can actually find quite a few evangelical Christians (Michael Spencer comes to mind) who have been asking and worrying about that kind of Churchianity. Both the shallowness of faith formation on one hand, and the churn rates of your average New Life in Colorado Springs — lots go through the front door, plenty slide out the side looking for the cooler light show, the hotter guitar lick.

    But i’ll quickly note in the waters i swim in most often: there’s plenty of stick in the mud if not up the choir robe congregations where people push out pastors who don’t preach the way they like to hear ’em, or who pick the wrong hymns. Form over substance is a plague wherever you find it, projected words or projected conformity.

    Anyhow, the sudden prevalence of Ichthus outlines on bumpers doesn’t make me much happier than it does you, Alex, and for reasons that rhyme even if they don’t quite agree. Christianity is not about “i’ve got mine, and you can get almost as much as me if you buy this book, do this study, or go to this church (but don’t sit too close to me), and put this sticker on your car.”

    And of course churches of all sorts, liberal and conservative, need to spend more time talking about what they want marriage to be than who they want doing it. Strictly speaking, i want rights equality for non-trad couples but am concerned about the unintended consequences of flipping definitions for marriage (and as i’ve said here, probably too often, i’d be fine with state laws stepping back to a simple civil union standard and leave “marriage” to each communion’s own self-understanding, instead of clergy being de facto and semi-unwilling agents of the state validating licenses). Straight or gay, the institution of marriage is in a four car pileup (40% of kids born out of wedlock is not a good development from anyone’s angle), and the church/Church/Christians in general need to stop talking around generalities and platitudes and deal when it comes to commitment and children and . . . oh, right, i need to read the Atlantic thing, i guess.

    I gotta go to bed, i’m singing silly songs at 8 am and am probably sounding silly here already. See y’all Saturday if we survive carnival day at Day Camp . . .

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  36. Dexter said on June 19, 2009 at 1:24 am

    wow! any of yas been checking the Tweets from Iran? AMAZING stuff from Twitter account holders—lots of the tweets link straight to YouTube videos and this stuff is wild and crazy news, I’m tellin’ ya!

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  37. Dexter said on June 19, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Farhad Manjoo, Slate: Kindle v. newsprint, or…
    The Newspaper is not Dead yet:


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  38. Dorothy said on June 19, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I’m late to the party but my favorite chapter in any of David Sedaris’s books is in “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, the chapter called “You Can’t Kill the Rooster.” It’s about his brother. My son read the book after I did, Mary, and I felt the same way – hearing him laugh at the same things I did was such a great way to share!

    Did I tell you guys before that I got to meet David in Greenville, SC? I got tickets to see him, and my niece came with me. He autographed books after the show and inside mine he wrote “I look forward to reading your book.” He was endlessly entertaining.

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  39. Claudia said on June 19, 2009 at 8:01 am

    A book about Ted Bundy. Scared the bejesus out of me.

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  40. Jolene said on June 19, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Living in Seattle while Ted Bundy was on the move was kind of bad too. I was living by myself in an apartment on Capitol Hill and, after spending an evening with friends, I decided to sleep on their couch rather than go home alone. Although Bundy mainly picked up his victims in broad daylight and there was no connection to my neighborhood, I still didn’t want to be out. That’s the only time I recall having explicitly altered my behavior in response to fear.

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  41. Scout said on June 19, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Another interesting discussion might be how former raised protestants turned agnostics reignited their spark of spirituality in the 00s.

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  42. Lex said on June 19, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Dave: That scene in Pet Sematary did it for me, too. Well before that point in the book I had grasped that the whole thing was about the fear of deathand I had suspected that something like that was going to happen. And although King isn’t the world’s most consistent writer, I’ll give him this: In the case of the exhumation in Pet Sematary, I knew it was coming and the scene scared hell out of me anyway.

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