Category Archives: Books

As The Book Is Banned, A Cautionary Tale


NeonomiconBannedI haven’t written a librarian post in quite some time, mainly because I haven’t been an official librarian in several years now. However, I remain a librarian at heart and just because I’m not working in a library, I haven’t turned a blind eye to the library world and the eye of the library world is blackened and puffy due to events transpiring right in my home town public library system. A book has been banned in from the Greenville County Public Library System.

The Greenville News has the entire story, but allow me to give you a short precis’. Last year, a fourteen year old girl used her father’s library card to check out Alan Moore’s graphic novel Neonomicon. When she showed the book to her mother, the mother was aghast and appalled at the content so she took the book back to the library and lodged a formal complaint. As per the library’s policy, a materials review committee went over the book using all the various criteria for selection such as literary merit, author reputation, awards, etc. After a thorough and careful review, the committee voted to uphold the book’s inclusion in the library’s collection. Then events took an ominous turn. The director of the library system, one Ms. Beverly James, used her “executive authority” to go against her own policy and OVERRULE HER EMPLOYEE COMMITTEE by ordering the book removed.

Let’s review. ONE person made a complaint about a book. The complaint went through proper protocols and channels. The committee upheld the book’s placement. The library director — a librarian with education and experience — went against their recommendation and BANNED THE BOOK.

A LIBRARIAN BANNED A BOOK!! This wasn’t a city council pressured by picketing pressure groups or a school board acting to quell an imagined scandal. This was a librarian taking a book off the shelves because ONE PARENT COMPLAINED! What’s next? Garbage-men pouring trash into the streets? Plumbers causing leaks in pipes? Congress passing meaningful legislation?

In the interest of full disclosure, Neonomicon is a harsh book. Alan Moore wrote it as a commentary on the horror genre and how it is racist and misogynistic. Since it is a graphic novel, it has pictures and some of the pictures show an orgy and later a rape scene. Did I mention it was a horror book? I can understand a parent not wanting his or her child to read this book. I get that, but that’s the issue.

This is Ms. Beverly James. She ordered a book banned after her materials review committee upheld it.

This is Ms. Beverly James, Director of the Greenville County Library System. She ordered a book banned after her materials review committee upheld it.

If you are a parent, you have EVERY right in the world to monitor your child or teen’s reading habits. You have the right to order YOUR child not to read something. You have the right to impose your views on morality on your children. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a tremendous problem with is when YOU try to impose YOUR views on MY child and — regardless of how you want to sugar coat it — that is what censorship is, one person or one group of people imposing THEIR views on others by denying others the opportunity to books, movies, etc which the others have a First Amendment right to see and read.

Simply put, NO parent has the right to RAISE ANOTHER PARENT’S CHILDREN, but that is exactly what this ONE woman has done. She has, with the complicity of the HEAD LIBRARIAN of our county system, told EVERY teenager in this county “You cannot read this book because I don’t like it.”

I find that appalling.

Someone in the comments section of the article tried to defend Ms. James by saying she was acting in the interest of the prevailing views of the community and THAT is where another serious problem crops up. Librarians are PUBLIC servants. They act as agents of the state / city. As agents of the state, librarians are responsible for acting in the interest of the ENTIRE COMMUNITY, not just those who hold power or majority views. A librarian does not and should not have the luxury of allowing his or her personal views to taint his or her service to the community served. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Is it just me or is the resemblance amazingly uncanny?

Is it just me or is the resemblance amazingly uncanny?

A friend of mine is a librarian in a high school in the upstate. She has a good selection of LGBT young adult novels as well as reference books and other non-fiction books that address LGBT topics. She put this collection together because her school has a growing number of students who identify as LGBT and she wants THEM to have a place and voice in the library even though she personally doesn’t support the LGBT lifestyle because it runs counter to her beliefs as an Evangelical Christian. She is and has always been VERY conservative but she realizes something lots of people don’t — she is an agent of the state from the time she gets out of her car on campus until she gets back in to leave.

She gets a lot of heat from people, including people in her own family for having such a liberal selection policy, but I applaud her because she realizes something too many Christians, especially in the South in general and the communities here in the Buckle of the Bible Belt do not — THE MORALITY OF HER STUDENTS IS THEIR PARENTS” RESPONSIBILITY, NOT HERS. Her job is to serve the school community as a whole, not promote any agenda.

Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t or won’t see the bigger picture. I support freedom to read, freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state NOT because I am not a Christian, but because I am and I’ve realized something — our majority is slipping. Islam is growing in America by leaps and bounds. Latin American Catholicism, which has some unsettling differences from the run of the mill Catholic churches around here, is growing with the growing influx of Latinos — legal and illegal. What happens when W.A.S.P.s are no longer in control? It’s something to think about and think about carefully. Sure, you probably support prayer in schools, but what happens when the class president or valedictorian is a Muslim and wants to pray in Allah’s name instead of Jesus’? When that day comes, and it WILL come, many Christians will be wishing they had listened to Thomas Jefferson’s message to the Danbury Baptist Association much more carefully.

So what does that have to do with the book banning? Everything. To boil it down, if WE insist on banning THEIR books today because we can, what do we say when the shoe is on the other foot and they want to ban OUR books? Think about this before I go; the woman who started the ball rolling which ended in Neonomicon being banned cited the book’s graphic depiction of violence and nudity as her reasons for wanting the book off the shelves. As an amateur theologian who has read the book cover to cover many times, I can tell you this — if graphic depiction of violence and misogyny were grounds for banning a book, the Old Testament of the Holy Bible wouldn’t  last a week.

Love you all, and I hope this makes it to the computers of some of my former colleagues so they can spread the alarm around the state and around the country. Now, keep those feet clean AND dry and I’ll catch you next time.

Potter Penner is Pretentious Prig


I should begin with some disclosure. I resisted the force of nature that is the Harry Potter franchise for a very long time. Then one Thanksgiving weekend, a bout of bronchitis laid me low and scouring the bookshelf for something to while away the sick hours produced nothing of interest for me. Finally, with gentle cajoling by Budge and great trepidation on my Tolkien adoring part, I began to peruse Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Two hours after reading, “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much,” I went straightway into Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and two hours from thence barreled headlong from, “And together they walked back through the gateway to the muggle world,” directly to “Harry Potter was a very unusual boy in many ways.”  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by virtue of being somewhat longer, took three hours and when I saw what a tome Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firewas, I decided to stop for the night. Of course, at that point it was 2:00 AM and I was a bit sleepy. Once I tackled Year Four at Hogwarts the next day, I had caught up with the rest of the literate world.

Not a bad body of work. It’s not The Lord of the Rings, but then, what is?

I will admit to being impressed enough by the epic saga of Harry’s struggle against Tom Riddle that I agreed to accompany Budge to the June 21, 2003 midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the Barnes and Noble on Haywood Road. We got in line at 7:00 PM and to my extreme dismay found ourselves directly behind the Superintendent of Greenville County Schools and the district’s school board chairperson. Normally that wouldn’t have been such a bad way to spend nearly six hours, but being as I had a nice long letter printed on impeccably tasteful cream-colored cotton paper stationery with a beautiful four-color rendition of the school district’s seal on the masthead, these two people’s signatures on the bottom, and the whys and wherefores of my termination from teaching sandwiched between, it was a skosh awkward. Good breeding and 300 mg of Effexor CR kept me out of jail and off the news that night, but once the three of us made eye contact, it is safe to say the store’s overworked A/C units became rather redundant.

Whether or not said unhappy confluence of proximity figured subconsciously in my decision to read no further in such a delectable series, I cannot say, but read no further I did. I skimmed and scanned OotP, ignored Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince entirely, and skipped directly to the culminating battle scene of Book Seven during a Scholastic Book Fair my second year as a librarian. Still, I was and remain thoroughly impressed with the series and the world Harry, Ron, and Hermione inhabit.

J.K. Rowling and the Snarky Half-Smile
“Why yes, I am filthy rich, yes you can adore me.”

However, I loathe and despise J.K. Rowling with every fiber of my being. To offer a family friendly paraphrase of one of my dear friend’s favorite expressions of contempt, I wouldn’t spit water in her mouth if her teeth were on fire.

My great acrimony towards Dame Rowling has nothing to do with her work. I think she’s a rather fine author, at least insofar as Harry’s adventures go. As a person, I think she is on par with Madame DeFarge, Annie Wilkes, and Imelda Marcos. See, Rowling is a huge success story any way you want to measure success . . . with money. She is currently holding down position #1140 on Forbes Magazine’s list of BILLIONAIRES.  Screw the whole “1% crap” the Occupy Wall Street crowd is crowing about; this chick is a member of the 0.000001%. She is currently the only billionaire author IN HISTORY. You read that right, JK Rowling has made more money off her books than Willie Shakespeare. She has more money than the entire GDP of twenty countries COMBINED. Put another way, the woman could straight up BUY Djibouti and get change.

Okay, so it’s small, but still, the woman could buy a COUNTRY.

Now I don’t abhor the woman just because she’s rich; I abhor the woman because she has totally forgotten where she came from and here in the South a person can commit no greater transgression than this. She was dirt poor, living on the UK’s welfare system, busted-flat-in-Baton-Rouge-waitin’-on-a-train-Janice-Joplin style when she got a great idea for a series of books while — literally — waiting on a train, types out the first one on a secondhand manual TYPEWRITER in a cheap coffee shop in a rundown section of  Edinburgh, a publishing house president’s eight-year-old little girl loves the first chapter, so daddy orders the book printed and the rest, as the man said, is history. That’s GRAND!

So, does she become a philanthropist doling out large scoops of this nuveau riche cabbage to folks in the same shape as she was? No. Instead, she becomes a raging witch slapping everyone in sight with a plethora of lawsuits aimed at “protecting her brand.” She has sued everyone from bookstores that “leaked” parts or all of her novels before their official release dates to one of her biggest fans because the guy wanted to publish an exhaustive encyclopedia of all things Harry Potter. She’s worked tirelessly to shut down any “unofficial” fan websites that might draw traffic from her proprietary I imagine if she, by some miracle, stumbles onto this little blog she’ll want to sue me. Good luck with that, sister. Two words: Blood, Turnip. In short, she became wildly successful and now seems terrified someone is going to get some milk from her cash cow! So freaking what?! Is $1.2 BILLION not enough money for you, Jo? I don’t particularly like rich people just on principle, but I reserve my greatest execration for rich people who are jerks.

Now Her Royal Knickers-In-A-Knot has decided to publish a book for ADULTS. Oh, shouldn’t we all just fall down at her feet in thankfulness? So you apparently LOVE money, you have created a universe and characters people will nearly kill to get more of, you could sell rocks if you wrote alohamora on them, but you want to abandon Harry and Company to scratch some creative itch? Let’s see how that works out for you, toots. Before you start on the second non-Harry-centric work of your career though, you might want to Google up a cat named Chris Gaines and see where “creative risks” got him.

In a roundabout way, we have J.K. Rowling to thank for this.

In the end though, I could forgive Rowling her peckishness with her adoring fans. I could even overlook her vast riches — provided I could find a ladder tall enough. What I cannot, nay WILL not forget nor absolve is the fact that — because of her phenomenal success — J.K. Rowling inspired another woman to think that she too could write engaging, creative fiction and craft beloved characters who will take their places beside Frodo and Sam, the Pevensie children, and Dorothy and Toto in the hallowed halls of masterful fantasy literature and because of that inspiration, we have Stephanie Meyer and her wooden female protagonist and those freaking sparkling vampires. That is a crime no lover of good writing could ever accept apology for.

Thanks for that, Jo. Stupid sparkling vampires. I’m sure Ron would say “Bloody hell!”

And to all of you, take care and keep your feet clean! Love always.

Paolini’s Worthless Inheritance


"Copy one source and it's plagiarism; copy a bunch of sources and it's research . . . or The Inheritance Cycle.

One of my beloved Budge’s greatest strengths to me as a wife is her ability to hold up her end of the conversation in most of our realms of discussion. She’s as smart as she is pretty, which means she has quite the formidable intellect. It’s also safe to say we agree on many more things than we disagree on. One thing we don’t see the same way — AT ALL — is Christopher Paolini’s “Inheritance” Trilogy +1.

Budge just finished the fourth book of the series and pronounced it quite a good read. I read Eragon and Eldest and stopped because, not to put to fine a point on it, I’ve come to realize Christopher Paolini is a no-talent hack at best and an unrepentant plagiarist at worst. His talentlessness exceeds even Stephanie Meyer, which is something I never thought I’d say. At least Ms. Meyer was “original” (read: moronic) enough to take on vampires in a new and idiotic way because . . . wait for it . . . VAMPIRES DON’T FREAKING SPARKLE!

Paolini, however, is as unoriginal as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich . . . and has about as much taste. Now here’s the thing — I’m not the only one who recognizes what a horrible writer / copyist he is. In fact, ever since the publication of Eragon by Knopf back in ’06-ish, scores of scathing blog entries have eviscerated his childishly vapid and overwrought prose as well as his shameless appropriation of at least one major trait of every decent fantasy series since Tolkien.

Want ten reasons why Paolini is overrated? Check out Blair Mathis’ list.

Doubt the plagiarism? Read this review and see how, point for point, Eragon is Luke Skywalker with a dragon instead of an X-Wing and a sword instead of a light saber.

Finally, you can go to the Anti-Inheritance Wiki and see VOLUMES complete with page numbers, etc. showing just how horribly written and fraught with errors this drivel is.

However, I want to be frank and quote a REAL author, in this case Margaret Mitchell, by saying  “my dear, I don’t give a damn” about any of the errors in the book or the prose or the magic system or the plagiarisms. No. What pisses me off to no earthly end is all the press and fame Paolini has gotten making it look like he’s actually DONE SOMETHING! Make no mistake, this guy is not, as we Waffle House devotees like to say, “all THAT and a bowl of grits.”

What has he done? Well, he’s written a book. Correct. He was fifteen years old when he wrote Eragon and Eragon reads like a book a fifteen year old Tolkien / Star Wars fanboy would write. Nothing more. You can actually do a web search for Tolkien fan-fiction and find BETTER works by YOUNGER writers. I taught high school English for ten years and I can say with some expertise nothing about a 15 year old kid writing a book as bad as Eragon is exceptional. I had plenty of girl and guy freshmen fantasy addicted emogoths write novellas approaching or exceeding Paolini’s quality in ONE CLASS PERIOD (on the 90 minute block system just to clarify.)

No, Paolini is not exceptional. Exceptional is S.E. Hinton writing The Outsiders while still in public high school. If Eragon is still selling 500,000 copies a year in 2056, maybe I’ll reconsider my opinion. Personally, I doubt it will still be in print (physically or electronically) in 20 years, let alone 45.

Speaking of Hinton and public high school brings to mind another problem I have with Paolini — he was homeschooled. Now don’t get me wrong; I’ve got nothing against homeschooling per se. I don’t believe all the hype that would make every homeschooler out to be a genius, but that’s another post for another time. What I’m saying is how many novels could one of my emogoths have churned out if he or she’d had all day to work on such a passion at leisure?

"Why YES, yes I am quite the smug little prat! Thank you for noticing!"

My bottom line where Christopher Paolini and his lack of talent is concerned is simple — Eragon would NEVER HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY if Paolini’s parents were not somewhat wealthy. They had enough money to get his pet novel published by a vanity press and last time I checked, that ain’t cheap.  They had enough money to send him on “book tours” to libraries and schools to do “readings” of his “work” to captive audiences and Carl Hiaason’s kid happened to be in one of those audiences and the rest is history . . . and hype, good lord, don’t forget HYPE. After all, if you don’t have talent, you’d better have marketing!

How many teens have the beginnings of a much better novel than Eragon sitting in a composition book or on a computer hard drive? We’ll never know most of them because those teens have to go to school and a great many of them have to work and not rely on Mommy and Daddy to fly them to the next “reading event.” If Mama had been rich enough to vanity press some of my work, I’d have had a few books out before college, too. As it is, Mama kept a roof over my head and food in my fat belly and I’ve got a box of rejection slips instead of bank notes.

But I’m not bitter.

If it seems like I’m being harsh . . . well, I am. Paolini represents a lot of the things I despise in the world. To me, he’s an arrogant “HAVE” thumbing his nose, very undeservedly, at all the “HAVE-NOTS.” He’s proof — like Paris Hilton and the Kardashian clan — that money can buy fame, but it can’t buy talent.

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and remember —  Friends don’t let Friends read crappy fantasy books!

Frodo lives!

Of Meyers and Monkeys


Budge and Deuce are at a late showing of the newest “must see” cinema attraction, the long awaited epic screen adaptation of . . . Breaking Dawn, part 1. Really, they are. This was one movie Budge didn’t even bother to ask me to take her to see because my beloved and longsuffering wife knows that frost will form on the hinges of Hell ere this little duck pays to see vampires sparkle.

We're working on it, Ms. Meyer.


“Vampires sparkle.” Just typing that phrase threatens to make all my lovely Chickpea Chicken supper suddenly reappear.

At this juncture, I want to state for the record that I am all too intimately aware that Ms. Meyers has sold more novels in a day than I have or very likely ever will have sold in my entire hypothetical lifetime. I know this. I also know that the aforementioned Ms. Meyers now has more money in book sales, licensed merchandise, and movie royalties than the GNP of SEVERAL smaller nations. I realize this, I admit this, and I submit ONE reason in my defense that I am not simply spouting about sour grapes as an unpublished and unpopular writer.

My reason, in the words of a fine Baptist preacher named Charles H. Spurgeon, is “A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog.”  Ms. Meyers can get richer than Solomon by selling more books than the Bible and it will not change the fact her magnum opus is as well-written as the assembly instructions for a piece of IKEA furniture.

For starters, Mrs. Bella Cullen (nee‘ Swan) is THE most insipid, weak, and pablum sipping “heroine” since Pollyanna. Why ANYONE, let alone two supernatural beings the likes of Sparkles and Lassie would be willing to grant her a moment’s glance is beyond me. I find it appalling so many young girls and GROWN WOMEN think of Bella as a suitable role model. Her craven, driveling character sets the cause of women’s rights back to the Victorian Era at best.

Secondly, the works rely on every stereotype known to feeble literature. The vampire is “charming?” Well, thank you Mr. Stoker, oh, I meant Ms. Meyers. An American Indian (or other rustic native) is a shapeshifter? Really? That trope hasn’t been used since, oh, I don’t know . . . Underworld? (And incidentally, Kate Beckinsale on her WORST day is blazingly hotter than Kristen Stewart in full wedding array.)

Thirdly, the books have more plot holes than Danish lace. A “family” that never ages lives in the same vicinity off and on for two centuries or so? GROWN VAMPIRES go to high school regularly? Well, Ms. Meyer obviously never went to high school biology class because if she did, she’d know that, by her OWN admission, vampire blood does not circulate in a vampire’s body. Since the blood doesn’t move, neither does Edward’s “little fang”. Hard to figure out where little Reneesme came from, now isn’t it?

Finally, and most importantly, Meyer ignores over 1,000 years of written eldritch history and supernatural lore. If she had one iota of respect for the tons of work that came before her she would know that VAMPIRES. DO. NOT. SPARKLE!!

Vampires die in the Sun. They burst into flames and blow away on the cold wind of irony and unrequited love!


So yes, Stephanie Meyer has raked in the dough and proven the Infinite Monkey Theorem in the process. She has followed in the footsteps of another nouveau riche female writer, J.K. Rowling. They both have truckloads of money and shiploads of fame. Of course, Rowling is twice the writer Meyer is, and I despise Rowling as well — for other, more esoteric reasons.

I think no less a literary figure than Stephen King says it best. On comparing Bella and Harry, the King of Horror himself says, “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

And if he’d thought about it some more, you know what else he would have said?


Love y’all. Keep those feet clean and just say no to sparkly vampires!

This is all that gives me hope.