Monday, September 27, 2010

Links for a Monday evening

--It's Banned Books Week in the US and the UK. Today's Guardian has an article about it that notes some of the usual targets of book-banning as well as some new ones. I was most interested by the one designated "the eighth most challenged book in the US last year":

Carolyn Mackler, whose novel The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things was the eighth most challenged book in the US last year for reasons including its "offensive" language and sexually explicit scenes, sent a statement to be read at the event. "While I'm honoured to be in the company of such amazingly talented authors, I'm certainly not honoured to be on the list," said Mackler. "And while I'm no stranger to book challenges, for some reason I'm always surprised."

She has received "hundreds of letters and emails from teenage girls" who have been inspired by the novel, she said. The book tells the story of Virginia, "a curvy 15-year-old girl who has been made to feel terrible about herself by her not-so-curvy family [but who] ultimately learns to feel good about herself, even to celebrate herself, as she is, without losing weight, without hurting her body."

"I write about teenagers as they are, and my characters sometimes curse, and they hook up, and they confront their parents when they feel they are being wronged. This, I suppose, is upsetting to people who don't want their child exposed to these things. While I sincerely doubt that my book will be someone's only exposure to such content, I respect a parent's wishes for their children. Their children, I emphasise. Not everyone else's," she said. "I am a parent. I closely follow the books that my son reads. If a book is scaring him, we talk about it. If a book doesn't seem appropriate for him, I tuck it away and suggest he wait a few years. I have a good sense of what he's ready for, what he's wondering about. But do I know what is right for his friend or classmate? No way. Please, all of us, let's keep standing up against book banning."
--Meanwhile, Aqueductista Sue Lange has posted Confessions of a Serial Book Banner.

--Strange Horizons has posted a review by Claire Brialey of The Secret Feminist Cabal.

--io9 reports that the UN has appointed Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman Earth's ambadassor in the case that an extraterrestrial species visit Earth (link courtesy of Liz Henry).

--Censorship isn't exactly book-banning, but the principle is similar. These days, censorship tends to be on "security" grounds, exercised by intelligence agencies. I'm sure everyone will be relieved to hear that some of those many US tax dollars at work in the Pentagon are being used to purchase 10,000 copies of a book written by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer-- a book vetted in advance, of course, by the author's military superiors-- in order to destroy virtually all of the initial print run. St. Martin's Press, the publisher, is producing a second version, with words, names, and even entire paragraphs blacked out throughout the book's 299 pages. I wonder. Who does St. Martin think will want to subject themselves to such a stymied reading experience? Is it possible they're hoping that non-serious readers will buy the book out of a certain kind of curiosity? It boggles the mind. Here is a portion of CNN's report by Chris Lawrence and Padma Rama:

The Pentagon contacted St. Martin's Press in early August to convey its concerns over the release of the book. According to the publisher, at that time the first printings were just about to be shipped from its warehouse. Shaffer said he and the publisher worked hard "to make sure nothing in the book would be detrimental to national security."

"When you look at what they took out (in the 2nd edition), it's lunacy," Shaffer said.

The Pentagon says Shaffer should have sought wider clearance for the memoir.

"He did clear it with Army Reserve but not with the larger Army and with Department of Defense," Department of Defense spokesman Col. David Lapan said earlier this month. "So he did not meet the requirements under Department of Defense regulations for security review."

One of the book's first lines reads, "Here I was in Afghanistan (redaction) My job: to run the Defense Intelligence Agency's operations out of (redaction) the hub for U.S. operations in country."

In chapter 15, titled "Tipping Point," 21 lines within the first two pages are blacked out.

In the memoir, Shaffer recalls his time in Afghanistan leading a black-ops team during the Bush administration. The Bronze Star medal recipient told CNN he believes the Bush administration's biggest mistake during that time was misunderstanding the culture there.

Defense officials said they are in the process of reimbursing the publisher for the cost of the first printing and have not purchased copies of the redacted version.

At least one seller on the online auction site eBay claiming to have a first-edition printing is selling it for an asking price of nearly $2,000. The listed retail price for the second printing is $25.99.
Which just goes to show that while book-banning and censorship work on similar principles, for authors, the difference is enormous.  

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