Saturday morning, I arrived at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show in time to catch the last half of a breakfast event featuring Christy Jordan (author of Southern Plate), Robert Barclay (author of If Wishes Were Horses) and James Swanson (author of Bloody Crimes).
Robert was the last speaker and he shared his journey to finishing If Wishes Were Horses and the different experiences that gave him source material for the book. As he was talking, I heard an odd sound to my right. I didn’t turn at first – my focus was on Robert and his story.
Then I heard the sound again and again. I recognized it as the sound of paper being ripped. Really, in a room full of booksellers, authors and book lovers, the sound of paper being ripped.
A woman sitting in the back was ripping sections out of a book. I wondered if it was her book or a journal. And why in the world she’d decided that in the middle of someone else’s even she’d do the ripping – the loud ripping – and disturb the event. She did it over and over again.
When Robert was done, he took questions. The Ripping Lady stood up and said that she supposedly knew a girl who was interested in equine therapy and would have loved to give her the book, but that the author had taken the Lord’s name in vain and had bad language in it, so she couldn’t give it to her. And why did he (the author) ruin the book that way?
Yes – really – that was what Ms. Rip-em-out said.
Here’s what Robert said in response (he said more than this, this is what I captured by hand): “I’m not going to defend my writing. Writing is a matter of taste. … I’m sure there isn’t a book in the world including the Bible, that could not be improved.”
Of course Ms. Rip-em-out protested that – but Robert had closed out the event and she was drowned out by the vigorous applause after his cool handling of the ripping incident.
I realized later in the weekend that this week is Banned Books Week. So maybe Ms. Rip-em-out was doing a little performance art to remind us of the importance of books, freedom of expression and our freedom to choose what we want to read and share based on individual values.
Even if she really meant it, she still reminds us that there are people who want to control the content of our books.
If you are wondering about Banned Books Week, go check out the following links.
Banned Books week site: What you can do
American Library Association page
Top Ten List of Challenged Books - 2009 (I've only read 4)
Twitter and Banned Books Week (NYTimes blog post)
Ban my books, please (Carleen Brice's post, tongue in cheek, about increasing attention for books by banning them)