Flew to Washington D.C. last week, the trials of flying we all know too well. I always try to take an easy, enjoyable read, usually a fun little mystery. So before I left I hunted through my books, located a Margaret Moseley, purchased at a Full Circle bookstore sale. Margaret was born in Oklahoma and you’ve probably know her for Bonita Faye, which was a finalist for the Edgar Award, in 1996.
This time my read was Margaret Moseley’s Grinning in His Mashed Potatoes, starring Honey Huckleberry (not so strange I have cousins with the same last name). Honey is a representative for several book publishers. She markets and promotes their titles to locally run bookstores. She and her best friend Janie are at a fund-raising event when best selling author and guest of honor, Twyman Towerie takes a bite of his dessert and falls face first into his mashed potatoes. Honey, of course, is seated next to him. He has a lot of ex-wives, four to be exact, who would gladly put a little something in his lemon meringue. One is on her way to revealing a ”tell-all” memoir and even the large diamond Twyman tried to bribe her with isn’t working. And the plot thickens….
Since the book was written in 1999 it’s interesting to observe the emergence of computers, and smile at our reluctant acceptance of technology that we can no longer even imagine doing without. Great plane fare, clever and fun, take an Okie on the road with you next time.
The Freedoms of Speech and Press are pretty worthless if we don’t have the freedom to read, to listen, and to view. Banned Books Week is that annual reminder that there are those in our society who want to dictate what is available for our consumption; our reminder that such attempts must be stopped in their tracks.
Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”
Books ranging from The Bible to Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter have been challenged over the years by well-meaning people who thought the content was dangerous to children, or that the language was offensive, or that a particular viewpoint clashed with cultural values.
These freedoms have been hard won over the course of Western Civilization—soldiers have died on battlefields for these principles—and we should take seriously any attempts to restrict access to ideas.
Seventeenth-century English poet John Milton saw Freedom of Speech as a right that includes not only the right to express and disseminate information and ideas, but also:
- the right to seek information and ideas;
- the right to receive information and ideas;
- the right to impart information and ideas.
Indeed, Milton’s philosophy of free expression, and his belief that governments should protect this right, would eventually become part of the U.S. Constitution. We all have our preferences. There are books, songs, movies, poems and art that I find distasteful. There are political, religious and social viewpoints that I find dangerous. But if I am to help uphold American values of freedom, and if I truly believe in the great Marketplace of Ideas, I won’t dictate what I think other people should read, listen to, view or believe.
To Celebrate Banned Books Week, Rose State College’s Learning Resources Center is hosting a week of activities from September 26 through September 30. Check it out!
- Monday, Sept 26. Panel Debate. Should we or shouldn’t we? Don’t miss this panel of local experts and media professionals who will debate banning materials in libraries. What is appropriate? Moderator: Wendell Edwards, KOCO news anchor. Panelists: Rep. Jason Nelson; Jim Roth, former Corporation Commissioner; Mark Thomas, Executive Director OK Press Association.
12:15-1:30 pm, Learning Resources Center (LRC), Rm 109/110
- Tuesday, Sept 27. Read-OUT. Join this first impromptu gathering as readers share excerpts from banned or controversial books, featuring Carl Sennhenn and students from the Rose State College Theatre Department.
9:00 am in front of LRC
- Wednesday, Sept 28. “Censorship and First Amendment Rights” — Presentation by Dr. Joey Senat, OSU Associate Professor of Journalism, will speak about censorship and first amendment rights. Prepare to be entertained and informed. You won’t want to miss this one.
9:30-10:45 am, Raider Room, Student Center
- Thursday, Sept 29. Read-OUT. Join this second impromptu gathering as readers share excerpts from banned or controversial books, featuring Tim Tharp and students from the Rose State College Theatre Department.
3:30 pm in front of LRC
- All week. Banned Book Display. Come view some books that have been banned or challenged in libraries.
Learning Resources Center, 1st floor
Letters About Literature Writing Competition Announced
The Oklahoma Center for the Book, located in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, has announced the national Letters About Literature (LAL) writing competition for the 2011-2012 academic school year.
Sponsored by the Library of Congress and Target Corporation, LAL offers students fourth grade through twelfth grade the opportunity to write a letter to an author (living or dead) from any genre—fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, contemporary or classic–explaining how that author’s work changed the student’s way of thinking about the world or themselves.
“Most everyone can relate to a favorite book or character,” said Oklahoma Center for the Book Executive Director Connie Armstrong. “Yet, not everyone responds to a particular book the same way. This program allows students to express how he or she as an individual relates to the book.”
Last year, approximately 70,000 students participated in the national writing contest. Oklahoma tripled its student participation. Three competition levels are offered: Level I for students in grades 4 through 6, Level II for students in grades 7 and 8, and Level III for students in grades 9 through 12.
Next spring, winning students from around the state, along with their parents, teachers, family, and friends will attend an awards ceremony sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. State winners will receive a Target gift card and cash prizes. The first place state winners will advance to the national competition, where six national winners and twelve national honorable mention winners will be announced.
The national winners will receive a $500 Target gift card, and will secure a $10,000 LAL Reading Promotion Grant in his/her name for a community or school library. The national honorable mention winners will receive a $100 Target gift care, and will secure a $1,000 LAL Reading Promotion Grant in his/her name for a community or school library.
Letters will be accepted September 15, 2011, through January 10, 2012. For more information regarding the program and to download an entry form log on to www.lettersaboutliterature.org.
Brian Selznick’s new children’s book, Wonderstruck, is out now, and it’s a wonder to read. I’m halfway through it and will do a review later. Please don’t think this book is just for kids. It’s great for adults, and would make an absolutely wonderful shared reading experience with the young people in your life.
Wonderstruck tells two intertwining stories. One story stars young Ben in 1977, and is told in prose. The other story is about a girl named Rose in 1927, and is told completely through Selznick’s amazing illustrations. To find out more, watch this tantalizing trailer from Scholastic Press.
Selznick is also the author behind the award-wining The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Like Wonderstruck, it is told with both words and pictures. The book has been made into a movie by Martin Scorsese and will debut on the big screen this Thanksgiving. But you can watch the trailer now!
It was just the facts, please, when it came to reading for my father. He loved non-fiction, particularly books and magazines on science and nature. He always questioned me and my sister about what attracted us to fiction. He enjoyed scripted television shows and movies, but he never liked reading short stories and novels. He equated “reading fiction” to “a waste of time.”
Published in book form now, In Praise of Reading and Fiction is Llosa’s tribute to fiction’s power to inspire individuals and whole societies, and to bridge the imaginary distances between different cultures:
Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs and prejudices that separate us. When the great white whale buries Captain Ahab in the sea, the hearts of readers take fright in exactly the same way in Tokyo, Lima, or Timbuctu. …the shudder is the same in the reader who worships Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Allah, or is an agnostic, wears a jacket and tie, a jalaba, a kimono, or bombachas.”
Just as importantly, the worlds writers and readers imagine in the realm of fiction speak to our aspirations for a better reality:
When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute—the foundation of the human condition—and should be better.”
From the earliest tales our ancestors spun in firelit caves to the grand epics of literature, Llosa knows we and our world are better because of the stories we tell each other.
There must be a thousand ways for civilization to come crashing down around our heads. You can always depend on good science fiction writers to come up with horrifying scenarios about a world reset. John Barnes has produced a doozy with his new Daybreak trilogy. The first two installments are out, and I’m going to have to wait until 2012 to read the third and final chapter. It’s the perfect time to get on board this exciting techno-thriller.
It’s the final Young Bill Young’s Summer Reads post for the year, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that the current temperature in OKC is a sweet 83 degrees! Labor Day really was the end of summer this year!
Barnes’s Daybreak series is part end-of-the-world horror story, part post-apocalyptic adventure, and part political speculation. The collapse of civilization in Directive 51 is caused by a movement known as “Daybreak”—an Internet-connected group of diverse people (ranging from eco-crazies to stewardship Christians to disgruntled techno-geeks) who have only one thing in common: they all want to bring the Big System down. The release of nanoswarm and biotes destroy rubber, plastics and oil products, and the destruction spreads rapidly around the planet, causing a dramatic and quick end to modern civilization. Following the initial collapse of modernity, Daybreak rears its head with additional poxes that are aimed at making sure Earth stays primitive, including radiation bombs that are set off in strategic locations.
While the reader is given some of the gore that follows America’s collapse, Barnes is more interested in what happens to America following such a scenario. Enter National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51 (it actually exists), the plan that “claims power to execute procedures for continuity of the federal government in the event of a catastrophic emergency.” Despite the directive, it doesn’t take long for the two political parties to flex their muscle, with opposing governments set up in Athens, GA and Olympia, WA. Meanwhile, an informational and research arm of the “federal government” is operating out of Pueblo, CO, charged with disseminating information via steam train to pockets of people around the country. (Are you old enough to remember those Federal Citizen Information Center ads asking you to write to Pueblo for free federal government brochures? Turns out they still have all of that information!)
As the first novel nears its close, the two governments are actually contemplating war with each other, as if Daybreak wasn’t bad enough. It will take the wisdom of protagonist Heather O’Grainne (administrator of the Pueblo operation), the skills of a surviving reporter, and the Socratic Method to try to spare what’s left of America.
The sequel Daybreak Zero opens only two months after the final events of Directive 51, and one year since the first catastrophic events known as Daybreak. In this second installment, we learn that tribes have formed across the country to battle any re-emergence of civilization. We learn that a new Post-Raptural church has emerged that is preparing for the tribulation. More importantly, we learn that Daybreak must be the deadliest meme ever. Those who have incorporated the ideas of Daybreak actually have seizures when trying to go against the meme. And Daybreak is infiltrating the governments of Olympia and Athens, and the research institute in Pueblo.
Some reviewers criticize the “one-dimensional” aspect of Barnes’s characters, but I didn’t find them to be so. No, you will not read pages and pages of philosophical, social and psychological ruminating by the individual characters. But you do get enough insight into the characters to give a damn about what happens to them. And, anyway, this is a story about people who are trying to stay alive while they attempt to bring back some kind of stability to their crumbling world. The meaning of life for these characters, is the meaning of survival.
I read a couple of graphic works last month. One gets a thumbs up. One gets a sideways thumb at the most.
The Gist: If you’re following Fables–the best darn comic book out there right now–get ready for an epic battle between Mr. Dark and Frau Totenkinder. Meanwhile, Rose Red must put aside her grieving over the death of Boy Blue and pull herself together in order to organize the Fables for the coming conflict with the dark master. We learn about Snow White and Rose Red’s past, more is implied about Ghost (Snow White and Bigby’s invisible child), and Beauty finally births Beast’s baby! If you haven’t been following Fables, you don’t know what you’re missing!
Status: Devoured! Volume 15 includes the wonderful 100th issue of the comic book with lots of fun extras.
Summer Escapism: Yeah, baby!
Strength of Writing: A
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: B (I get totally immersed in this world when reading a Fables volume.)
Social Relevance: B (Yes, we’re talking about good versus evil, but Willingham’s Fable characters are too complicated and rich to be relegated to simple black and white.)
General Reaction: The best Fables story arc of the last couple of years. Can this comic get any better?!
The Gist: Hapless geek Jimmy is a mama’s boy and librarian in Oakland who thinks he knows more than he actually does about computers and the Internet. When he loses his best friend Sara to an internship in New York, he realizes that he has romantic feelings for her. So… it’s off to New York!
Status: Read cover to cover
Summer Escapism: Meh…
Strength of Writing: C (Yes, it was satisfactory.)
Social Relevance: B (Jimmy has a job but he’s still a step or two away from being a self-actualized adult. He represents the Emerging Adult, an increasing trend in our country.)
Generation Reaction: Reading this made me feel as empty as Jimmy must feel. Oh yeah, I chuckled in a few of places, but it was generally a solemn read for me. Following Jimmy’s trip to New York and his last interaction with Sara, the reader is left with no idea if the protagonist will begin to gain confidence and take charge of his life. In reading a book, at the very least, I want to know that something has changed for a character, that some revelation about life has been earned. You won’t get that reading Empire State. (Jimmy is a continuing character for Shiga, so maybe we’ll be rewarded in future books.) I’m a great believer that every read does not have to leave you feeling good, and I suppose this story has something to tell us about the state of twenty-somethings in the world today. Maybe I’m just becoming an old fuddy-duddy!
By the way, Shiga continues to have great promise, despite my lukewarm review of Empire State. After all, he did create this! It features Jimmy, too.
Visit ShigaBooks to find out more about this talented artist and writer.