Archive for john steinbeck

Banned But Brilliant


Banned In Boston

Banned in Boston. That used to be an almost sure way to sell a copy of your book. The more controversial, the more copies it would sell. It was instant demand. A marketing bonanza.

But what about banning a book when it's not for promotional purposes? One can only imagine the harm it might do to a community if the book was available -- or even worse, read by the public. How those people will be corrupted on moral grounds, the fiber of their very existence challenged at the highest levels.

Fortunately, those good people in Randolph County, North Carolina are saved. Sixty years after it was first published, this piece of literary smut, unadulterated trash, has been deemed inappropriate for their community and stripped from the shelves. Praise the Lord.

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

The book in question is Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel, Invisible Man -- not to be confused with H.G. Wells novel The Invisible Man. That was a classic. Evidently, according to The Courier-Tribune newspaper in Asheboro, N.C., Ellison's landmark book was no so classic.

In a 5-2 vote, the school board voted to ban the book, with one board member, Gary Mason, stating, "I didn’t find any literary value."

Well, we're all entitled to our own opinions about literary value. But let me put this in perspective. This same Invisible Man won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction, beating out Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck's East of Eden.


In 1995, writing for the New York Times, Roger Rosenblatt praised the novel as a masterpiece.

"Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," which won the National Book Award in 1953, was instantly recognized as a masterpiece, a novel that captured the grim realities of racial discrimination as no book had, " Rosenblatt wrote. "Its reputation grew as Ellison retreated into a mythic literary silence that made his one achievement definitive."

The accolades don't stop there. Invisible man is included on Time Magazine's list of 100 Best English Language Novels since Time's founding in 1923.

With all of this pedigree, the book was still not deemed appropriate for the Randolph County, North Carolina's school district. First North Carolina tries to illegally abolish abortion. Then they try to take away minority voting rights. Now they're telling the people what they can or cannot read.

Is this the real Tar Heel state?

One can argue they don't like the book, but to deem it devoid of "literary value" is a disservice to the people of this community as well as the to human race for including this critic Gary Mason among them.

Wake up North Carolina. It's 2013.


The Book Booth: The Winter of Our Discontent Edition



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

The New Year has been ushered in with lots of noise (we had plenty of fireworks around here). So if you are still in the resolution-making mode, the LA Times asked 15 authors to come up with their literary resolves for the coming year, and you may take inspiration from them. Mine, as always, is to read more books.

Well, my other resolution is to read more poetry. There is nothing, really, like a good poem in the pleasures it gives. Kevin Young over at NPR had some choice selections of some poets he likes. And from what he writes about them, it makes me want to read even more poetry than I've already resolved to read.

But if poetry is not to your taste, but memoirs are, the LA Review of Books has selected five fairly recent ones by musicians, all of which have received good buzz. Friends have raved to me about the Neil Young, Patti Smith and Keith Richards tomes, so you may want to check them out. Via HuffPo.

ABEBooks reviews the past year in reading, including some of those authors who passed away in 2012. As always,there is plenty of great jacket art to feast your eyes upon.

And speaking of jacket art, Greg Habash over at the Publishers Weekly blogs featured these old covers. The sad thing for me is that I remember all of them, which makes me feel old. And check out the one by Steinbeck near the bottom. I'd forgotten all about that book.

Not to be outdone in Best Of lists, Salon asked fifty writers,entertainers and bloggers what their favorite books of 2012 were, and some of the answers are surprising.

The Nobel Committees deliberations are archived for fifty years before being released. So, the discussions around the 1962 selection have just been released. That year John Steinbeck beat out Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell, amid some controversy. It seems that many felt that Steinbeck was a weak choice. I guess even then English Professors who hate Steinbeck were at work, as for many of those folks when it comes to 20th Century American Lit, there is Faulkner and then there is everyone else. While I love Faulkner, I'm of the opinion that Steinbeck was a worthy choice. He wrote very memorable novels, and while perhaps not quite the artist Big Bill was with words, was certainly the equal, nay, better than Sinclair Lewis and Pearl Buck, both Americans who had previously won the Prize. And while I admire both Graves (I love the Claudius novels) and Durrell, I don't think they were necessarily 'better" than Steinbeck. The Guardian has the story.

Another interesting item concerning John Steinbeck was this story from the New York Times Book Review. It seems that Steinbeck, a fervent supporter of Adlai Stevenson, who was still considered a viable nominee for the Democratic Party nomination for 1960, was approached to write a novel centered around an amoral politician, modeled on the likely Republican nominee, Richard Nixon. Nothing came of it, and Gore Vidal did a good job of it in his play, The Best Man. In any event, here is the story.

Finally, Christine Spines at Word&Film listed her best film adaptations for the last year. Some of the usual suspects are here, but in all honesty, I hadn't known that Wuthering Heights had been re-made. And I was a bit surprised to see neither Cloud Atlas or Anna K. on the list.

So tell us what's on your nightstand this weekend? And what are some of your resolutions this year about reading and books? Have a great weekend, folks!