Sunflower Skins

September 29, 2011

Banned Books Week & Kathy Acker’s BLOOD AND GUTS IN HIGH SCHOOL

September 24th – October 1st is Banned Books Week in the United States, celebrating our right to free speech while recognizing the problems of censorship that still prevail in communities all around the world. Just this past week the Missouri school that removed Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from its shelves has allowed the books back into their library—on a shelf closed to students without parental permission. As I have suggested elsewhere in my writing, restricting access to information, historical accounts, art, and ideas that may not necessarily agree with our own is not where we begin to cure problems of racism, sexual abuse, violence, and intolerance; that is simply more intolerance. Free speech requires responsibility, so let us enjoy our freedom and responsibly continue to create and share provocative, inquisitive books that perhaps take us out of our comfort zone and challenge our own ways of life. For more about Banned Books Week, visit the American Library Association’s statement about celebrating the freedom to read. Canada’s own Freedom to Read week is February 26 – March 3, 2012.

Taking part in the Virtual Read-Out, Sunflower Skins presents a selection from Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School:

[Though I didn’t do my best Acker imitation, which is, I’ll admit, pretty good, I donned my Kathy-in-her-undies Nymphomaniac tee. Thanks to Thom for patiently putting this together.]

 And now some of our favourite moments in ‘scandalous’ literature:

“Kidney of Bloom, pray for us

Flower of Bloom, pray for us

Mentor of Menton, pray for us

Canvasser for the Freeman, pray for us

Charitable Mason, pray for us

Wandering Soap, pray for us

Music without Words, pray for us

Reprover of the Citizen, pray for us

Friend of all Frillies, pray for us

Midwife Most Merciful, pray for us

Potato Preservative against Plague and Pestilence, pray for us.”

(Ulysses, James Joyce)

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ – and tore it up.

(The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain)

He kept standing there. He was exactly the kind of a guy that wouldn’t get out of your light when you asked him to. He’d do it, finally but it took him a lot longer if you asked him to. “What the hellya reading?” he said.

“Goddam book.”

He shoved my book back with his hand so that he could see the name of it. “Any good?” he said.

“This sentence I’m reading is terrific.”

(The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger)

“It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was his due? Hadn’t he said he wanted only justice? But I couldn’t. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark—too dark altogether….”

            (Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad)

Finally Brother Leon looked down.

“Renault,” he said again, his voice like a whip.

“No. I’m not going to sell the chocolates.”

Cities fell. Earth opened. Planets tilted. Stars plummeted. And the awful silence.

(The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier)

That evening while the Stupids were watching television…

… everything went dark.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Mrs. Stupid.

“We must be dead,” said Mr. Stupid.

“Oh, wow!” said the two Stupid kids.

            (The Stupids Die, Harry Allard)

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