a de-selection by any other nameJanuary 6, 2013
Last month, I complained on Facebook about the censorship of Alan Moore’s Neonomicon from the Greenville, South Carolina as reported by The Guardian here. I lived in Greenville as a child and went to pre-school, kindergarten, and second and third grades there, and my earliest library memories are of the bookmobile that would visit our neighborhood on Stonewall Lane and occasional visits to the big city library (which, in my memory, is a vast edifice sprawling with endless uncountable shelves of book). So I felt somewhat personally affronted by the actions of the library above and beyond the usual kneejerk anger that news of any banned book brings out in me. I fired off an email to the library’s executive director who had made the decision the same day I read the article.
I was mildly disappointed not to receive a reply, and mentioned this recently to a friend, who sent me a follow up this morning. It’s quite clear that the director doesn’t care what I or anyone else thinks:
Presumably, she’s also not responded to a letter co-signed by the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and the executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:
Here’s the text of my letter, which I now doubt she even bothered to read:
As a Southern writer of speculative fiction (one who lived in Greenville as a child and loved the library there), a fan of the work of Alan Moore, and above all, a passionate defender of the rights of authors and of readers, I was deeply disappointed to read this article about your decision to ban a work of literary merit from the adult section of your library:
Alan Moore is an internationally respected writer and considered by most to be the finest writer of graphic novels in the world. Sometimes, literature addresses difficult and upsetting topics. This is the nature of art; I am sure that on your shelves you could find any number of books that contain rape, violence and other controversial material and deal with it all in a much less mature and examined way than Moore, who always grapples with these issues with the seriousness they deserve.
I think of libraries as a bastion against ignorance and fear of the written word. Librarians are generally on the forefront of promoting the right to get controversial ideas out there and to highlight the awful repercussions of banning books. Your committee did their job in agreeing to retain the book in the collection; I’m afraid that by my measure, you have utterly failed in this regard. I’d really like to urge you to reconsider your decision.
If my words are not sufficient to sway your decision at all, I’d ask you to consider the words of the great American writer Kurt Vonnegut, on learning that 32 copies of his book Slaughterhouse-Five had been burned in a school furnace in North Dakota in 1973, “I Am Very Real”:
Ms. James is referring to this as “de-selection,” as though mincing words somehow mitigates the awfulness of what she’s done. The bottom line is that she’s abusing her position and she’s acting as a government censor.