Freedom to Read Week 2011

February 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In 1995, the school board in Lanark County, Ontario, denied approval of Stephen King’s collection of four novellas, Different Seasons, on the basis of the book’s sexual content and language. The book had been recommended by teachers for use with senior students at Carleton Place High School. One of the board members who was involved in making the decision admitted not having read the book. In Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work, George W. Beahm quotes the author’s response to the suppression of his book by the Lanark County School Board: “I know the attitude and the mindset. These people love to be despots in their own little territory … Book banning is never about what’s pornographic or what’s not. It’s always about who’s got the power to … try and impose their view of the way the world should be on the minds of the young ones in their charge.”

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From “Apt Pupil” by Stephen King:

“Do you suppose, I ask myself, that the very atrocities in which Dussander took part formed the basis of some attraction between them? That’s an unholy idea, I tell myself. The things that happened in those camps still have power enough to make the stomach flutter with nausea. I feel that way myself, although the only close relative I ever had in the camps was my grandfather, and he died when I was three. But maybe there is something about what the Germans did that exercises a deadly fascination over us – something that opens the catacombs of the imagination. Maybe part of our dread and horror comes from a secret knowledge that under the right – or wrong – set of circumstances, we ourselves would be willing to build such places and staff them. Black serendipity. Maybe we know that under the right set of circumstances the things that live in the catacombs would be glad to crawl out. And what do you think they would look like? Like mad Fuehrers with forelocks and shoe-polish moustaches, heil-ing all over the place? Like red devils, or demons, or the dragon that floats on its stinking reptile wings?”

“I don’t know,” Richler said.

“I think most of them would look like ordinary accountants,” Weiskopf said. “Little mind-men with graphs and flow-charts and electronic calculators, all ready to start maximizing the kill ratios so that next time they could perhaps kill twenty or thirty million instead of only six. And some of them might look like Todd Bowden.”

“You’re damn near as creepy as he is,” Richler said.

Weiskopf nodded. “It’s a creepy subject. Finding those dead men and animals in Dussander’s cellar … that was creepy, nu? Have you ever thought that maybe this boy began with a simple interest in the camps? An interest not much different from the interests of boys who collect coins or stamps or who like to read about Wild West desperados? And that he went to Dussander to get his information straight from the horse’s head?”

“Mouth,” Richler said automatically. “Man, at this point I could believe anything.”

“Maybe,” Weiskopf muttered. It was almost lost in the roar of another ten-wheeler passing them. BUDWEISER was printed on the side in letters six feet tall. What an amazing country, Weiskopf thought, and lit a fresh cigarette. They don’t understand how we can live surrounded by half-mad Arabs, but if I lived here for two years I would have a nervous breakdown. “Maybe. And maybe it isn’t possible to stand close to murder piled on murder and not be touched by it.”

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