06 September 2011


Thanks to Andrea Kuszewski for the link to this incident. Long story short, "A Catholic school student who identifies herself by the avatar name 'Nekochan' started an unofficial library of banned books that she runs out of her locker at school. She began to lend books to her classmates when her school banned a long list of classic titles, including The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost, and Animal Farm .... Books are banned for many reasons, but in a lot of cases, such as Nekochan's, the complaint originates in religion .... Books are often banned by school boards whose only knowledge of the books is a brief, out-of-context quotation."

Banning books is reprehensible, as is any form of censorship. It is only one step below book burning as an expression of paranoid, dictatorial delusion. It is also self-defeating, since such prohibition tends to increase interest in the document in question. Case in point ~ J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, whose popularity and high literary regard were only enhanced after the book was banned in many schools in the 1950s.

It would be far more productive for concerned parents to themselves read controversial books to which their children are exposed, and then sit down with their children and discuss the merits or shortcomings of the writing and the ideas (listening openly to their children's point of view). It would also be instructive to remind ourselves that we condemn other societies for book banning (remember The Satanic Verses, or the book burning that took place in Nazi Germany?). It is unjust to maintain a double standard for ourselves.

Not many people of any age would have the insight or the courage to start an underground lending library for their peers. Nekochan, your parents should be proud of you. I am.

On a lighter note, here is a short video showing Dutch artist Theo Jansen and the kinetic (moving) sculptures he calls Strandbeests. Jansen's interest extends beyond aesthetic expression. With the thought of global-warming-induced rises in sea level in mind, he views these wind-powered automatons as possible prototypes for machines which "would toss sand in the air so that it would land on and augment the seaside dunes which protect the country from flooding." Here is a link to the abstract which appeared in The New Yorker. And here is a link to dozens of Strandbeest images, one of which appears below.

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