Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don DeLillo wins PEN/Saul Bellow award

And you can't argue with that, I don't suppose.

I still need to get hold of Point Omega, and I got a second hand copy of Americana the other day, which is now near the top of my 'to read' list. (Next up, after Vonnegut, which I'm reading now, is JM Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg. The Brothers Karamazov is my earphone listening while walking to and from work at the moment (coutresy of Librivox), so Coetzee's fictionalised account of Dostoevsky should be fascinating. The life of one author I don't like (but have to admire) written by another author I don't like (but have to admire).

Banned books watch 2010

It's the ALA's Banned Books Week again - it comes round fast.

Another depressing list of the books most frequently requested to be banned from American libraries. The top ten is:

1. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series) by Lauren Myracle

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

Reasons: Homosexuality

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group


How dispiriting that after all these years Holden Caulfield can still cause such apoplexy. And even more depressing that a superb anti-racist book such as To Kill A Mockingbird can be so misread that its meaning is completely reversed.

Recently, there was a post in one of the message boards for UK librarians. The poster's library authority had banned all connection with anything Israeli, and that included Israeli authors, so he was having to contemplate removing Israeli authors from his shelves. Had anyone else encountered the same issue, he asked. What an astounding reaction! He was being told to censor his library collection, take off classics of literature, for no better reason than the authors' nationalities, and his first thought was not to man the ramparts. This is what librarianship in the UK is coming to - sadly defeatist. Good luck to the ALA in its stalwart attempts to keep censorship at bay in the US.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Illusionist



While I was in Edinburgh, I went to the cinema (a rarity for me) to see Sylvain Chomet's new film, The Illusionist. Chomet is the director of the superb Belleville Rendezvous. I'm not usually one for cartoons (excepting the magnificent Donald Duck, of course, one of my role models), but Belleville Rendezvous was just outstanding, with an emotional pull you wouldn't believe possible from animation. And since The Illusionist is actually set in Edinburgh, how could I not go and see it?

It's an outstanding film. The drawings are superb, as you would expect, giving an impressive sense of place. The screenplay is by Jacques Tati, for a film he never made, and tells the story of an ageing illusionist in the 1950s/60s, at a time when variety and this type of act were becoming passe. The magician in the film is a cartoon version of Tati himself, and after failing in France he heads for Scotland, first up in the isles, and then in Edinburgh, and along the way he is joined by a young Scottish girl. That's about it. The plot is minimal, there is virtually no dialogue, there are no human beings on show, and yet this film still manages to stir the emotions to a remarkable degree. Throughout, the whimsical humour is shot through with a pathos which leaves the viewer with a nagging sense of dread that something terrible should befall this lovely, gentle, unworldly old man. In the end, the film is a plea for kindness and consideration. You leave the cinema thinking that might, just, be possible.