Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Banned Books Week

September 25th to October 2nd was the 2010 "Banned Books Week" which raises awareness of special titles that have historically attracted the attention of people who would enjoy heating their cabins with books (other than the Quar-an).

The Literacy Council of Alaska in conjunction with Forget-Me-Not Books hosted a special event featuring local authors who read from some of their favorite books. I picked a personal favorite from childhood: Maurice Sendak's "In The Night Kitchen" - dusted off my 1970 first-edition hardcover and re-read it for the first time in many years. Comparatively speaking, the colors are still much more rich, soft and warmer than the softcover mass-market version I picked up at Gullivers for donation after the reading. The last time I read it hadn't yet heard of Winsor McCay, and after seeing a few particular sequences again it's quite theagrand homage to Slumberland. Stylistically it's also a departure from the bulk of the other works I've collected over the years: I always love to show my classes scans from lesser-known titles featuring his illustrations (such as "The Bat Poet" by Randall Jarrell, 1963 MacMillan): nobody else short of Crumb has such command of cross-hatch. Also I hadn't ever been aware that the baking of Mickey is a deliberate reference to Nazi atrocities: another fond childhood memory has been popped. Fortunately there is still a whole bunch of other titles that will forever remain innocent touchstones from my formative years like "Lets Be Enemies," "A Hole Is To Dig" and "Chicken Soup With Rice."
The American Library Association ranks The Night Kitchen on its "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000" due to the appearance of a penis on a few pages. That list is a bit misleading, as for example, Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" is on it, since it was once banned in Yugoslavia in the 1920's - so I feel like some of the titles are a sly marketing and publicity tactic (works for me, since I wound up buying a new copies of both from the convenient bookstore display of Banned Books). Funny how fighting against censorship, defending the right to read, and other supposedly liberal and elitist issues of intellectual freedom doesn't even seem to register for folks too busy waving their handguns around - and sad that there's such a corresponding number of such groups equally ready with their matches.

Some of the other folks that attended and their respective reads:
Noon: Mel Birch- Howl by Allen Ginsberg
12:20: Deirdre Helfferich –Harry Potter
12:40: Greg Hill – Pogo
1PM: Denise Bakewell
1:20: Malika Noreen
1:40: Rachel Seale- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2PM: Dermot Cole- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
2:20: Carey Seward – Joy of Sex
2:40: Murray Richmond - Naked Lunch or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by William Burroughs/Ken Kesey, respectively
3PM: Kate Billington – BFG by Roald Dahl
3:20: Jamie Smith- In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
3:40: Dassidy Phillips
4:00: Maggie Barrowclough- Are you there God? It's me, Margaret by Judy Bloom
4:20: Kathryn Harris- Beloved by Toni Morrison 
Besides being a nice break from the simultaneously on-going 24 Hours Comics gig (more follow-up posts on that coming sooner than later), I figured out why whenever babysitting I never have much luck reading kids to sleep - especially with such fun material!
"Milk in the batter!" "Milk in the batter!"

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