Thursday, September 24, 2009

Books Aflame

There's an unwritten contract between writer and reader: The author is here 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, but 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) adds depth and understanding 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 the conversation, without seeing as much of the picture as is available to you, 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.

 This past year, Judith Krug died, leaving behind a tradition of raising up those voices that others would silence. Ms Krug founded "Banned Books Week" at the American Library Association, which begins on Saturday. Art is supposed to be a challenge to your viewpoint. If all we ever read or hear are those voices which already agree with us, then we are stagnant and the conversation dies. And that... that would be truly tragic.

Find out more: The American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom Geoffery Chaucer, Montaigne, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Joseph Heller, JD Salinger... not to mention the Bible, the Quran and the US Constitution. Some of the greatest minds and influential works ever to pass from pen to page have all been censored, blocked, burned and banned. UPenn offers the following list of banned literature: And one of my favorite places to keep track of the current trends in banned and challenged books is the blog The Dangerous Pages Review

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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).