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Sunday, 27 September 2009
Banned Books Week - Day two
Manheim Township, Pennsylvania

(2007) Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams were challenged in Manheim Township schools due to sexual references. The book was retained in the high school English curriculum but it was moved up a grade the following year.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 6:57 PM EDT
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Saturday, 26 September 2009
Your happy story for the day

My brother found this short video and sent it to me. Luis Soriano Boroquez is a teacher in La Gloria, Columbia who runs a "Biblioburro" - a traveling library from the back of a donkey. I remember the Bookmobile when I was a kid: my mom used to walk me and my sister up the hill to where the converted bus full of bookshelves was parked in the neighbour's driveway. It's one of my earliest memories, and I remember being completely excited by all the books lined up along the sides of the bus. (Yes, it was probably a formative experience.) I lived about half an hour away from Fredericton, and it was hard to get in to the main library. My mom had two small kids to worry about, and a pair of teenagers. Going all the way in to town was an epic journey, in my mind at the time. 

But it wasn't any eight-hour round trip journey on the back of a burro, carting 120 books and a foldable plastic picnic table, by any stretch. And what Luis says about it is just beautiful:

"With the Biblioburro, we are fighting what we call the "farmer's ignorance." In a book we can find cities, cultures, rights, duties. A child we can educate today with the Biblioburro is a child we are teaching rights, duties, and commitments to. And a child who is aware of their rights, duties, and commitments, is a child informed to say 'no' to war."

He's also built a library along with his wife, so that someday he'll have somewhere to keep all his books and an actual central location for the children.

Somebody give this guy a medal or something. Better yet, give him a hand.


Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 12:14 PM EDT
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Banned Books Week - Day One
I've decided to post random individual cases from the ALA's Map of Book Censorship. I just shut my eyes and wiggle the mouse around for a bit and pick the nearest case. It's fun! In a watching-trainwrecks kind of way. 
St. Louis, Missouri
(2007) Jason Rich's Growing Up Gay in America, Julie Endersbe's Homosexuality: What Does It Mean?, L. Kris Gowen's Making Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide and Zoey Dean's A-List #6, Some Like It Hot were all challenged by a community member who called the books obscene and spoke out against them at a town council meeting. The Kids Right to Read Project sent a letter to the City Council and local newspaper opposing challenges.

To read the letter, click here.

(2008) Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice on Her Way, Sonia Levitin's Escape from Egypt, Kate Cann's Hard Cash, Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys and Rainbow Highs, John Green's Looking for Alaska, Adam Rapp's 33 Snowfish, Stacey D'Erasmo's A Seahorse Year, Jason Rich's Growing Up Gay in America, Julie Endersbe's Homosexuality: What Does It Mean?, L. Kris Gowen's Making Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide, and The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality by St. Stephen's Community House were all challenged at the St. Louis county Libraries by Citizens Against Pornography. The group requested a ratings system, prompting NCAC and ABFFE to write a letter objecting to any changes.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 11:57 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 September 2009 12:08 PM EDT
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Friday, 25 September 2009
Banned Books Week: Sept 26-Oct 3

Banned Books Week starts tomorrow. It's an American initiative, so their website deals with American challenges and cases, but I think we ought to be marking the week in Canada too.

I just spent way too long clicking through their interactive map of book bans and challenges. Wow. Not surprising, I suppose, that so many of the bans arise from people not caring what the book is saying, just the language in which it's said. Also not surprising that there's just as many, or more, coming from a sort of blind terror that reading about a thing will cause you somehow to do it, be it, experience it. By this logic reading the newspaper will cause you to rob banks, drink and drive, commit fraud, run for President, become a rock star, pass laws, design a Mars lander, grow the world's biggest zucchini and marry a millionaire. And much much more.

Check out the map, pick one of the books and read it if you haven't. Or, go to their top ten challenged books list, and read em all. Not surprisingly, it'll be a short read, because most of them are children's books. #1 on the list? And Tango Makes Three, a children's picture book about the penguin chick adopted by two male penguins in Central Park Zoo. On the top of the banned list, three years running. 

"We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks." - co-author Justin Richardson

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 11:48 AM EDT
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Thursday, 24 September 2009
Oh, they weren't supposed to do that...

... but I'm secretly kinda gleeful that they did.

Someone in the front rows of the Nick Cave reading brought in a camera and got some fairly good quality video of the whole thing. Yup, bootlegging is alive and well. But for book readings?!? Check out Part 1 (and the subsequent sections) here. In particular, the explanation of Gladiator II (in the question period) is just brilliantly funny.

Also, look for the first question: that girl showed up around 3:00 PM and waited outside for hours. We'd been warned she might show up. And then I found this explanation in a comment on Peter Simpson's live blog of the event (The Big Beat at the Citizen):

The commenter says: "Actually, the girl who asked the first question was the singer for the band who opened for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Montreal.  She gave a memorably terrible performance that night, ending her set with a mutual exchange of boos between her and the audience.  The set and the attitude were so bad that it prompted a Montreal paper to write an article about the worst opening acts ever, with her band topping the writer's list.

The singer replied there and on various message boards about how much the Bad Seeds liked her and she had the same story about how she was told that she should audition for the band.  Last night was just a continuation of the same sad spectacle; and Cave's handling of the awkward scene was great.

Big Beat: Ah, so that's the background. Thanks. I found it very difficult to hear the questions from the crowd: the sound from the stage was better. All I could get from her was that she wanted to go backstage to audition, and then I could hear Cave's withering reply."

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 12:12 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 24 September 2009 12:18 PM EDT
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Friday, 18 September 2009
So I'm sitting in the Murray Street last night...

... with a bunch of cool people, having some drinks and charcuterie, and I look over at the corner seat of our table and I think, not for the first time, "well, hell, that really is Nick Cave over there."

It's really gratifying when people you've been looking forward to meeting turn out to be as cool as you want them to be. Nick was gracious and straightforward and not at all disconcerting, except for the fact that he looks just like Nick Cave and that can be kind of disconcerting in itself, because you keep suddenly remembering that he's a rock star, and he certainly looks like one, all rail-thin and black suit and big rings and all.

And he did a really good reading and interview with David O'Meara - it seemed like they hit it off in the half hour or so they had to chat before the reading. David did a great job, too: the interview was relaxed and interesting. They talked about the book, but also about the process of songwriting versus fiction writing, how his writing style has changed over the years, and somehow got into a conversation about the screenplay "Gladiator II" (or, as he wanted to title it, "Christ Killer") which apparently Russell Crowe asked him to write and which involves Maximus going to purgatory and being forced to go back to Earth by the old gods to kill all the Christians, then joining up with the Christians to fight every war in history, because "he can't die, for some fucked up reason." It was hilarious and completely out of the blue. Some of the things he said about the writing process and where Bunny Munro came from is repeated here, in a short interview with the New Yorker.

I've been meaning to write about the book and having no time: I finished it last weekend, I think. It's an astonishing book. The main character is a delusional monster who you still, somehow, find yourself sympathizing with. Or at least pitying, he's so completely being destroyed by his desires and addictions. There's a kind of weird anti-catharsis in the end, where horrible things happen but without any of the usual restoring of balance that we've come to expect from a story that ends with its protagonist's death. Bunny isn't redeemed (and Cave said some interesting things last night about our need for 'redemption' in narrative - "Redemption from what?" he asked. "From being human?") and Bunny Junior may not be rescued, and nothing, eventually, is put right. There isn't even any forgiveness, unless, perhaps, from the reader, who's been inside Bunny's head and seen how awful and pitiable and deluded he is. It's not the other characters' job to forgive Bunny for being human, it's ours.

Anyway. Just really glad that I liked the book, love the music, and then got to discover that I like the man too. We had a really good evening, he called it a night around midnight, and flew out today, having told his publicity person that this show was the highlight of the book tour so far. (Hooray for Ottawa, says I.) 

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 12:34 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 September 2009 6:29 PM EDT
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Thursday, 17 September 2009
... and here's the shirt!

They came in this afternoon. The front's printed with the Writers Festival logo, and the back has the cover of the book, with the date and our slogan (Canada's Festival of Ideas Since 1997.) I love it. I really hope he signs mine. Yes, I'm going a little teensy bit fangirl here. Whaddaya want, it's Nick f*cking Cave. You can get yours tonight at the show, or, if there are any left over, through PayPal on the Writers Festival website at some point next week. Or, call us. 



Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 2:27 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 16 September 2009
I'm pretty sure we couldn't have gotten away with this T-shirt...

The Festival's printing up T-shirts with the Canadian cover of The Death of Bunny Munro printed on the back, to sell tomorrow at the Nick Cave reading (and face it, we all wanted signed Nick Cave book tour shirts too.) The Canadian cover's pretty strange, but it'll make for an interesting shirt...

But something tells us we couldn't have pulled this off with the Australian cover... especially since we wanted to have one for Sean and Kira's four-year-old Aidan. Oh, no. No no. Although, someone should do it. They really should.

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 5:18 PM EDT
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Thursday, 3 September 2009
The Schedule, Ah Me, The Schedule

Once the schedule for the Festival goes live, it really feels like things are in full swing. And I start getting all excited. It's like getting all your brand new school supplies in the fall, you can't wait to start using that shiny new protractor and compass and all those colour-coded notebooks. Or was that just me?

Anyway, with all the stuff coming up in September and October before the Festival even gets rolling, I know I shouldn't be focussed too much on the Festival itself, but I can't help it. 

I want to see the first poetry cabaret, with Sina Queyras, Colin Morton, Christian Bok and Paul Durcan. I'm kicking myself that I'll be visiting schools with kids authors and won't be able to attend the session on writing for graphic novels with Mariko Tamaki, Apostolos Doxiadis and David Small. I wish I could have had Tamaki as part of the kids program with her teen graphic novel Skim. Apostolos Doxiadis (yeah, you may never have heard of him) has written a graphic novel about the history of logic, Logicomix, which reminded me in spots of Neal Stephenson. And David Small's memoir, Stitches, is ... brilliantly drawn (the art is spectacular) and twitchily uncomfortable. Take the worst, creepiest, most Oatesian childhood you can think of, and then set it in Detroit. Awesome stuff. 

And I am SO there for the panel on 'Cycling and the Livable City' with David Byrne (yup, that David Byrne) and Jeb Brugmann, and representatives from BIXI and the NCC. That one I have a personal vested interest in, being a cyclist. (And I want to blog about it at my other blog, The Incidental Cyclist.) 

Karen Connelly and Zoya Phan - another one I want to catch but will be at schools. Augh! Zoya Phan, in case you don't know of her, was the young Karen refugee who made the news by giving an impromptu, moving speech on the BBC when she was picked out of the crowd at a 'free Burma' march. She went on to become International Coordinator of the Burma Campaign UK. 

"The Mathematics of Creativity" - I'll have to skip the other David Small event to sit in on this one, but man, having Christian Bok and Apostolos Doxiadis talking about math and creativity - maybe I'm weird but that turns my crank. 

I always miss the Masterclasses because they happen during the day, but on the weekends I can go, so I can go to the one about editing and rewriting with Barry Callaghan. I've been wanting to see the Festival do a Masterclass on editing for a while. 

Oh, and I want to see the Short Story Cabaret, and I think there's something to be said for meeting Bram Stoker's great-grand-nephew or whatever he is, and Ian Rankin's sure to be a hit, and then there's Ottawa's apparently insatiable interest in Penguin's Extraordinary Canadians lineup. And there's Transgress, and the New Islamic Fiction spotlight... and then I also get to spend the mornings visiting schools with people like Matthew Skelton and Arthur Slade (who writes steampunk for the 8-12 set, how cool is that?)

Bah - check it out and see for yourself...

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 2:00 PM EDT
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Friday, 28 August 2009
Farewell to Reading Rainbow
Mood:  sad

I found out through the airwaves this afternoon that Reading Rainbow's going to be closing up shop. That makes me sad, partly because I loved the show so much as a kid - I especially loved, and still remember, the kids doing their own book reports.

What also worries me is this article, and the sense I get that the focus has changed for children's programming - that a show like Reading Rainbow, that shows you why you would want to read and even teaches you to think critically about books, would get canned in favor of a show that teaches technical things like phonetics. You can drill a child all you want on phonetics and letter recognition. That will NOT cause her to want to read, or to enjoy it. There's so much shit in children's programming - as there is in children's publishing - that it's particularly disheartening to see a really good show like this one go under. 

There's a Twitter hashtag to try and keep the show going on the web - #SaveReadingRainbow. If you're on The Twitter. I'm not personally, but the Writers Festival is (dragging me along with it naturally.)

Posted by Kathryn Hunt at 1:04 PM EDT
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