Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We're Not Talking Roll On

I'm still calling this 10 Things Tuesday but I'm not limiting myself to 10. It's Banned Books Week. I went through the ALA's list of banned and challenged books and chose some that have spoken to me. Some of them really shouldn't speak that way in mixed company.

As I Lay Dying - This was the first Faulkner book I ever read. It introduced me to stream of consciousness and changing narrator. It taught me my first literary inside joke (My mother was a fish.). I fell in love with him and his in these pages. My life and my writing would not be the same without this particular work.

Catcher in the Rye - I read it because I thought it'd be the cool thing to do. Made essentially no impression on me at all. Think I might need to read it again now that I've lived in NYC.

Lord of the Flies - Kind of can't look at a group of young boys playing and not think of this book now.

Lysistrata - The Greek theatrical format has all the action happening off stage and this is a play about specifically not getting any action so why ban it? Oh, because the women defy the government? Heh, yeah, I guess that could be frightening.

The Great Gatsby - Again, not much of an impression on me but a friend loved it so I read along.

To Kill A Mockingbird - It's a great book. It's about justice. Some people, I guess, hate justice.

The Color Purple - I saw the movie then I read the book. Then I read everything else that Alice Walker wrote. Images from her books still come to me all the time.

Beloved - Interspersed with the Alice Walker canon I read Toni Morrison. This, though, has to be the book that grabs your heart with its fingers and squeezes. (Check out what I found while looking for a picture of Ms. Morrison. Apparently I'm not the only one who sees a link between her and Mr. F.)

1984 - Well, of course it's unsettling, that's the whole point!

The Sound & The Fury - More Faulkner. Had I not read this with a class I wouldn't have understood even a page of it and I still loved it.

Charlotte's Web - When people start challenging Charlotte's Web we know that the world has gone mad.

Animal Farm - It's a very complicated allegory, I'm told. I mean, I get that, I see where the comparisons lie, I just don't get as worked up about it as it seems I'm supposed to.

Winnie the Pooh - Wait, seriously? Winnie the Pooh? People who challenge this probably charge their grandma rent.

Song of Solomon - When I read an author's entire canon I need to remember to separate the books enough that I retain the differences. I know I've read this. I could not recite the plot because I also read Jazz in the same week.

Gone With the Wind - It's a classic for plot reasons, right? I hold that it's not a fantastically written book but it is a great portrait of a certain place and time. The Carol Burnett version is better, though.

Slaughterhouse Five - I read this recently, actually. Erm, think I missed the significance.

The World According to Garp - I know a lot of people who love John Irving. Mostly they are men. I know I'm supposed to love him too since I grew up in the town he writes about. Garp is fine. The time I spent reading Cider House Rules, though, I'm never going to get back. And hey, why isn't that one banned? It's all about abortion!

The Jungle - Counting this on the strength of having read the first third of it approximately 87423059729 times. The other two thirds still await my attention.

Mrs. Dalloway - This was so much more lovely than I anticipated. It made me even more appreciative of The Hours because Cunningham was utterly respectful of Woolf's tone and rhythm in his representation of the character.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - The movie is, of course, superb and classic. The books are different but in a way that is important to experience, I think.

A Clockwork Orange - Post apocalyptic Lord of the Flies post-rescue boat. What's not to love about that? It could be argued this is the inspiration for shows like Sons of Anarchy, too.

In Cold Blood - I read this because I was surprised to learn it wasn't fiction. Very sad. Not for the reasons one might expect.

Sophie's Choice - The use of narrator is so skillful in this book. It opened up new vistas for me.

Absalom, Absalom! - Faulkner, Faulkner! Got me an A in English my senior year of college. Thank you Judith Sutpen!

Orlando - I fell in love with the character in the movie and expected to have to slog through the book. It's more intricate but also more compelling. And the character is someone I'm inclined to follow to the ends of the earth.

Sons & Lovers - I can't even claim the first third of this book. This book taught me that I do not love the 19th century novel per se, I love certain authors. Even if they did write novels during the 19th century.

A Separate Peace - Required reading where I come from. Delicately tragic. Perfect high school reading list material.

A Light in August - Opening chapter drops me into a world I've only grazed in real life. I still see the opening image when I hear the title.

A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - People who ban this have a hate on for fun.

The Wide Sargasso Sea - I actually haven't read this but I recently picked up a copy on the street and plan to read it soon.

The Wind in the Willows - This is one of my dad's favorite books. I have never read it. Grave oversight is probably not an overstatement.

Midnight's Children - Chili was reading this in class when she went back to school for her M.Ed. I said I'd read along. I had uncharitable thoughts about the author. Many of them. 'Cause it took me a long ass time to wade through this. Don't put any weight to my opinion, though, I hated the protagonist in Kite Runner, too.

Have you read a banned book lately? Go on, it's fun!


  1. I am always surprised by the banned book list. First off, I don't understand banning books period. Secondly, Charlotte's Web? Really?!?!

    I haven't read a banned book lately, but there's a lot here I haven't read. I've read all the classics (like the first 12 or so). Maybe it's time to pick up some of the others.

  2. Funny...your choices from the list include some of my very favorite books - Gone with the Wind, Catcher in the Rye, The Jungle (which I just read this year)- and some books I hated - Gatsby (IMO, sometimes water is just fricking water, not a wet expanse of symbolism), Slaughterhouse Five (YUCK!!).

    I know some about most of the ones I haven't read but I should actually read them. Thanks for the nudge in that direction.

  3. I'm kicking myself that I didn't do this as a TTT. Maybe I'll do it on my teacher site.

    There's no telling what books are going to hit us. Some books I expected to really appreciate flew right under my radar. Some that I never expected to care about have become integral to my very personhood. THIS is why no books should ever be banned.

  4. the banned list amuses me so much...so many of those were required reading when i was in school. hooray for my Catholic schools, which not only required books that made us think, but challenged our abilities to process what we've read. i know the public school kids from my area didn't get to read books that were anywhere near as good.

  5. wow, i just realized that sounds horribly classist of me. not my intention. in my area, the public and magnet schools just didn't focus on good literature for some weird reason. i still don't get it...all the private schools prided themselves on a rich English program.

  6. Happy to say I have read 15 books on your list. I would love to re-read some of them but new books keep coming out that grab my attention!

  7. Miflohny9:32 PM

    I hated Catcher in the Rye.
    Loved The Great Gatsby. I just enjoyed the lyrical writing.
    I've loved every short bit of Alice Walker's writing that I've read, but she's still on my list of writers that I want to read, but haven't had a chance to.
    Not a fan of Toni Morrison. Not that I dislike her writing - I just enjoy other writers more.
    I've read all of Vonnegut. I recently reread all of Vonnegut - I only ended up keeping a few of the books. Slaughterhouse 5 was not, and never was, one of my favorites.
    I haven't read Mrs. Dalloway, but I loved To the Lighthouse. Didn't like the movie The Hours.
    Need to read The Jungle.

    No time to read these days, as my 1 hour each way subway ride every day is gone ... Sigh ...