In recent weeks, we've seen interesting news on the literary front. We'll headline a couple of them today.
You may have heard of the Librotraficante movement and its caravan this month from Texas and New Mexico into that literary desert of Arizona where schoolbook banning is alive and well. Authors and educators are fighting back– smuggling banned books back into the state that just celebrated its centennial.
Like other bannings, Arizona HB 2281 ARS §15-112 touts such lofty goals of racial harmony and patriotism, but also like other bannings, the result is something else. Reportedly, officials seized books while studies were in session and subsequently shut down classes.
The numbers of 'offensive' books comprise an extensive list, mostly related to Indian and Hispanic themes and authors. I won't suggest this is communist thinking (although Arizona's flag features a suspiciously large red star. Hmm…)
The Streisand Effect
My take is nothing like banning books gets people to read them. A couple of thousand miles away in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg twice destroyed the so-called People's Library, an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street. I'm sure officials saw only a rag-tag collection of books, but burning books of any kind raises hackles. Thus, out of these two attempts to take books out of people's hands, a new movement has arisen… 'read-easies'.
Like speakeasies of the Prohibition era, people can gather to partake of the illicit and even the illegal. The idea of these decentralized underground libraries is for each to stock copies of banned works. Thus if a book is banned in Boston (or tossed in Tucson), it should be available elsewhere.
Criminal (and other) Composites
In possibly the first intersection of People Magazine and the literary world, the celebrity mag published pictures of Daphne du Maurier's Mrs. Danvers, Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Daisy Buchanan, Thomas Hardy's Tess, Patricia Highsmith's talented Tom Ripley, and Vladimir Nabokov's Humbert Humbert.
A new web site called The Composites combines descriptions of literary protagonists and law enforcement composite sketch software to create visuals of our favorite characters. Following are some of the most popular results:
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Daphne du Maurier
The Maltese Falcon
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Burning Chrome, Neuromancer
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
A Good Man Is Hard To Find
|Ignatius J. Reilly
A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
We Need to Talk About Kevin
I admire Sue Grafton's detailed descriptions, but I tend toward minimalism. In Swamped, I described the professor's hands, damaged foot, and what little could be seen of his eyes, but I spend more time writing about what's on the inside of a character. What characters think is important to me, especially if it doesn't mesh with their actions. Although I'm more Continental Op than Kinsey Millhone, descriptive difference may be attributable to the length of the story form. In a novel with more room to play, I might become more effusive vis-à-vis physicality, but there can be drawbacks.
I'm not the first to mention that whilst Stephenie Meyer vividly portrayed teenish hunk Edward Cullen in her Twilight Series, she sketched virtually no physical description of Isabella Swan. Apparently that lack of detail allows readers to visualize themselves as their heroine, Bella.
Speaking of which… it's the witching hour of midnight and I'm outta here.