Wouldn’t it be neat if we had a week to celebrate Shakespeare? A week when everyone was to read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain? A day even when everyone was supposed to talk like a character in a Jane Austen novel (as compared to a pirate)?
Nah, we book lovers get Banned Books Week. Where all of us book readers get to shake our heads collectively and wonder what others are thinking. The funny thing is most people that try to ban a book don’t actually read the book in question. A few years ago there was one protestor who strived to get Harry Potter banned from her school library. It made national news. She was discussed on all the Potter forums. What we discovered later is that she had never read Harry Potter and was worried it would drive kids to Satanism.
I don’t even know where I would start if I was to have an argument with such a perspective.
My grandmother used to be a member of her local library board. The reason she would give for being on the board was to fight people trying to ban books from the shelves. She was the voice of reason in a very conservative community and she kept up her end of the battle long after Parkinson’s made her life difficult. She will always be one of my heroes.
Last year on WKAR, I gave a commentary on their daily radio show Current State about Banned Books Week. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:
The playwright Anton Chekov has this great rule for writing a play. To summarize it, if a gun appears in the first act, it has to go off by the last act.
What Chekov is tapping into is that a gun is threatening, a gun can kill. An audience remembers it is there, and each and every playgoer expects that sooner or later, for better or worse it will be fired. I remember once I saw a production of “Hamlet” by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and they showed Hamlet with a gun in the first act. He carried it in his coat wherever he went on that stage, his concealed weapon, and we always knew it was there, expecting it sooner or later to cause destruction. Because a gun will always be fired, fictional or real, and there are always consequences for one being around.
The funny thing is, there are pockets in our country where people feel more at ease with guns than books.
You can listen to my complete thoughts (or read them) via this link. I will be appearing on the show again this week, but this time to discuss the importance of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, another fighter in this literary battle. I hope you will check it out.
Well, if this is the only holiday people will give us book lovers, we might as well make the most out of it. Decorate your books shelves with garland, start a book club, pick up that classic you never got around to finishing, turn off the TV, and… most importantly… read, everyone, read.