Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reflections (In Memoriam)

There's an unwritten contract between writer and reader: The author is there to challenge you, to hold up a mirror and show you what they see, a new viewpoint different from your own.

It is in the nature of any reflection that we will not always see what we expect to see. At its worst it is merely titillating. At its best this is the beginning of a conversation, the juxtaposition of different viewpoints, one set beside the next, interlocking reflections of life in our times (or past times in some cases) because no single image can be the entire picture. In the words of the oft-censored author Douglas Adams: "The function of art is to hold the mirror up to nature, and there simply isn’t a mirror big enough..."

Without that conversation, without viewing the entire picture, all the reflections available to you, you cannot hope to have a fully-realized picture of our culture. Pull the mirror off the wall and the reflection will go away but it will not change what it showed. Only by taking all the images available -- even those we disagree with -- and overlaying them can we begin to see the whole interconnected collage of overlapping lives and loves and wonder that surrounds us. The whole of creation laid out before us in the stacks of the world library.

While I was touring the east coast, uberLibrarian Judith Krug passed away.  In the tradition of Voltaire's "I may not agree with what you say, but I will die for your right to say it", Ms. Krug founded the notion of a "Banned Books Week" at the American Library Association. She was a fearless fighter against censorship and the expulsion of challenging literature from American libraries. Soon thereafter, the ALA released their annual list of "Challenged Books".

Books are supposed to be challenging, folks. Rest in peace, Ms. Krug. I never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I will never forget you.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).