No Banned Books Week celebration

They’ve been popping up all over my reader all week, and I’m sure they’re all over yours too. Impossible not to notice them. I’m talking about references to the Banned Books Week. (If you don’t know what that is, do click through on that link and/or on the badge below. The issue is censorship, and I do feel that we should all be more aware of it.)

Banned Books Week badge by ALA.org

Wonder why I didn’t take part in the celebration? I’ll tell you:

I do not agree with Banned Books Week.

There. I said it.

Now, before you bite my head off, let me say right from the start that I am not an advocate for censorship, not at all.

No Censorship badge by EFF.org

I firmly believe in freedom of speech, which means that everybody has the right to say what they think, and to write it in a book, and to see their book published, and everybody has the right to buy and read those books, and to share them and talk about them.

Which is not yet the case in so many places. I assure you that I am well aware of it. And I commend ALA (and many other library associations) and I can even commend the Banned Books Week for their work in unveiling censorship in all its forms. For raising awareness about those books that are censored and challenged and banned in our so-called very liberal Western society. It is important, we do need to keep our eyes open.

So the Banned Book Week is good. Right? Right.

But.

But there are reasons that make me want to distance myself from it. Two reasons, mainly.

Reason #1: Just Because It’s Banned, Doesn’t Make It Good

The badge by epicreads.com, below, sums up the whole of my point here:

“Someone banned me, so read me maybe?” Errr… no? When I choose to read a book, it’s because I hope it’s good (don’t we all?) and being challenged or banned does not necessarily make it so.

If you look at the “most frequently challenged books” lists, there are masterpieces like The Call of the Wild by Jack London, but there are OK books like The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and there are awful books like His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. (I know not everybody will agree with my classification here, but I’m sure you can find books you love and books you hate on those lists too.) Therefore no, being challenged is not a parameter I will take into consideration when choosing my next book.

Reason #2: Not All Bans Are Created Equal

The Banned Books Week celebrates all the books that are somehow challenged or banned, but I believe there is a huge difference in nuance. Take for instance:

  1. an author that is completely banned from a country because of what he has written
  2. a library that removes books by a certain author because they are on different sides, politically
  3. a movement that calls for book burning of a very specific title for any given reason
  4. a parent that challenges the teacher’s decision to read a certain book in class, because he/she thinks that his/her son is not ready yet for that kind of content.

Do you think these are all equal? Because I don’t.

And when you look at the Banned Books Week stats page and cross the data, you’ll see that most challenges classified there are like my #4: initiated by a parent, against a school, because a book is supposedly unsuited to age group or sexually explicit. And guess what? I believe parents are still the ones in charge of educating and guiding their children, which includes guiding them through good books that are suitable for them.

Uhm… maybe not these parents.
Cartoon by XKCD

I know I’m walking a thin line here. I know it’s a risk, I know how a narrow-minded parent could ban any and every book from their children and raise them as fundamentalists. I know there are many unreasonable people like that out there. But I still believe there is a greater risk in the opposite way, in ruling against parental control and parental decision.

And I am not a mother (yet), but if I went to my teenage daughter’s school and found the 50 shades books on the shelves, then yes, I would challenge them.

That’s why I don’t totally agree with this week celebration.

Will you tell me I’m wrong?

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A fiesta that caught me unawares

Oh how I like unusual words!

unawares adv. so as to surprise.

What I like less, is when things catch me unawares. (Please, stay! I promise I have a point with this post!)

You may have noticed how, at the beginning of September, I said that I would do this, that and the other, and then just kind of fell off the radar altogether. There is a reason for that, one that I may well tell you about — no, don’t worry, it won’t be now. Because now I have something more important to say.

While I was off the radar, September went by and Bloggiesta crept up on me and is suddenly here! I didn’t realize it was this late. Ahem. Well. Oh well.
I do have plenty to do, but little time to blog over the weekend… and I’ll have to change my Bloggiesta plans a bit. But I plan to enjoy the sudden fiesta all the same!

Here’s my to-do list:

  1. Finish reading The Rock (I know, I know, it’s not a readathon, but I do want to finish it before the end of the month and it fits the following points too, so I’ll stretch the rules and make it a readathon/bloggathon fiesta — there’s no rule saying I can’t, right?)
  2. Write the stats post for the end of September (see? I need to finish that book!)
  3. Write the October list post
  4. Think about what I want to do with this blog
  5. Reply to that guest post offer (as soon as I decide what to reply, which will only be after I complete #3)
  6. Design the button for a personal project that I am pushing back again and again (no, I won’t tell you what it’s about, not yet. A hint? Are you asking me for a hint? Oh, OK: it’s for the Italian section, and it’s about words)
  7. Write (or at least give myself a clear schedule to do so) some other non-review posts, such as: “T___ with G,R&N”, “S___ under the same ___” and “Book K___” (wondering about all those blanks? Well I couldn’t give away the titles like that, could I?)
  8. Explore blogs and mini-challenges (of course, that’s the whole point)

You may have noticed that there’s no technical side to my list. Well, what can I say: at the moment I am more concerned with the content and where I want to go with that. But if you think there are issues with my container (are those annoying CAPTCHAs still there? Do you find my language setup confusing? Does the theme make your browser crash?) please do let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Happy Bloggiesta, everybody!

Antonio Tabucchi week: two books and a movie

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Antonio Tabucchi was. When I first read (and loved) Pereira Maintains, he was already famous because of it. It was his one famous book, and the only one I knew, and I loved it.

But I didn’t know the first thing about Portugal, and I had a feeling that you needed to see those places to understand, truly, not so much the book as the author himself. How can you appreciate The Woman of Porto Pim if you have never been to Porto Pim in the first place?

OK, so this was only an excuse to show you a picture of our honeymoon to the Azores…

Except, I may be wrong. On rereading Pereira Maintains earlier this year, with all my newly-gained knowledge of all not enough things Portuguese, I liked it not nearly as much.

Pereira Maintains
Italian edition
as published by La Biblioteca di Repubblica, 190 pages
with a note by the author

Don’t get me wrong, I still did like it. As before, I liked the story of a middle-aged man suddenly revolutionizing (and risking) his life because he was fascinated by the love between a young couple. And more than before I loved the clean, no-frills style: it touched me as a well-balanced marriage between the principles stated by Calvino and the realism searched by Saramago.

But it felt too shallow. Now that I know a little about the Salazar dictatorship, I wish the book was stronger in denouncing it. Of course, this was written well after the facts (Tabucchi wrote that the whole idea of the novel came to him after he attended the funeral of a journalist who had to flee Lisbon because of the regime, and who had returned to Lisbon later, only to end his life completely ignored). And yet, it feels like Pereira Maintains dances over the historical situation without really dealing with it.

“According to Pereira”,
a movie by Roberto Faenza,
with Marcello Mastroianni (Pereira), Joaquim de Almeida (Manuel), Daniel Auteuil (Dr. Cardoso), Stefano Dionisi (Monteiro Rossi) and Nicoletta Braschi (Marta)

After re-reading the novel, I also re-watched the movie, and it was beautiful. I’m not an expert in cinema and I cannot really comment, but I always like a good Mastroianni interpretation! And I did feel that the movie filled up whatever was lacking in the book: I felt the social commentary much stronger here, and I was less annoyed by Pereira’s endless chewing over his soul.

I know, I know, I just showed my ignorance. Pereira’s reflections on his soul was one of the pillars of the book. And a key element in Tabucchi’s work. I know. (It’s just not for me.) And if I didn’t know, it was made clear when I read another novel by Tabucchi recently, Requiem.

Requiem: A Hallucination
Portuguese (original) edition
as published by Dom Quixote, 154 pages
with a note by the author translated by Pedro Tamen

As I was saying before, I don’t know nearly enough to appreciate this book for all its literary references. (Beware, because this is a novel for very cultivated people to appreciate!) But I was interested in its peculiarity: the language. This is the one book Tabucchi didn’t write in Italian but in Portuguese.

I have always been fascinated by people deciding to use a language other than their own. (Did you know that Mozart and his sister wrote to each other in Italian? There is a technical word in linguistics for this phenomenon, but I can’t recall it right now and I don’t have my linguistics texts with me — if anyone knows, I’d like to hear from you!) And I was completely, utterly taken in by Tabucchi explaining how he dreamt a dream in Portuguese, how he began to jot down notes about it in Portuguese, and how this book, stemming from that dream, could only be written in Portuguese. Because Portuguese was the language of his heart. Because he was redefining the concept of maternal language.

I feel like I am liking Tabucchi’s work for all the wrong reasons, but that’s fine with me 🙂

I wrote this post (although a bit late)
for the Antonio Tabucchi Week,
hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.

Please check her blog for more Tabucchi content from other participants.

Oh, September…

September is here and summer is over. Or not really over, there’s still plenty of sun ’round here and maybe a couple of trips to the sea ahead, but around the blogosphere it feels like summer is over. (I guess it has to do with school schedules, but that’s something that I’m not concerned with at all at this point in life.)

I finished yesterday the Semi-Charmed Summer 2012 Book Challenge organized by Megan. It was a fun experience, different from most because it worked with points and felt more like a competition than a reading challenge, but it fit the summer feeling perfectly and allowed me to get some reading done. (I did have to tweak the last couple of categories in order to finish in time, but still.) So I guess yes, in blogging terms summer is really over for me too. And I am ready for more “serious” reading (not that I stopped reading serious things, but I did get more fluff than usual this summer).

So. September. The good thing with the end of summer is that there’s plenty of interesting things starting to happen. I wonder how much I can do — let’s see.

September 1st to October 31st: here comes the seventh edition of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, hosted by Carl V. @ Stainless Steel Droppings. I’ve never participated before because Gothic/Horror is not really my thing, but the experiences organized by Carl are always great fun, so I thought I would try. I’ll start easy, with “Peril the Third or, the One Book Only option”, and I think I have one book that fits the bill. Or more than one, possibly.

September-October is also the timeframe of the current Read-a-Long @ Unputdownables. I so loved the first experience that I was looking forward to Wallace’s next read-a-long that would catch my interest. The current read is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, which I remember loving more than I expected to when I read it for the first time. So it will be a re-read, and at the same time not a re-read, because I read it in Italian and will try the original this time. I am looking forward to an interesting discussion on this one!

September is also Chunky Book Club month. This is probably the only month I can participate in the discussion this year and I am looking forward to it, but I still have to start reading. September’s pick is Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, and discussion starts on the 15th.

In non-readalong news, September is the month of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, which will be hosted on September 10th to 14th. This is a first for me and I am sad that I won’t be able to participate in full, but I’m still curious to see how it goes and looking forward to participating as much as I can!

I recently and totally by chance became aware of the Antonio Tabucchi Week which will be hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat on September 17th to 23rd. I don’t know that I can read more by him right now, but I hope it will be a chance to discuss two works I read recently, Sostiene Pereira and Requiem.

Towards the end of the month, it’s time for a new Bloggiesta on September 28th to 30th. Fun and a chance to blog better? Count me in. There’s so much more I’d like to put into my blogging!

To close the circle, let me finish with something for October: as part of the R.I.P VII, Carl is hosting a read-a-long for Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Guess who’s not going to miss that?

_____

Post summary: a list of books I want to read in September (did I mention I want to finish a couple of challenges too?)

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • Kraken by China Mieville or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  • Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
  • The Rock by John Masters
  • The Most Beautiful Thing by Fiona Robyn
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory

Hasta la Bloggiesta!

It’s time to close for me folks! Bloggiesta ends here for this edition. So here’s the bottom line.

My tasks:

  1. redo the blogroll — DONE, sort of: this is a never-ending task
  2. deal with the great tag-to-category haul — DONE, at least the categories are fine now
  3. finish the review backlog — DONE! I know there are still a couple of non-reviewed books, but those are waiting for me to read some more.
  4. write and schedule some more posts — DONE! Ok, just one post written and scheduled, but a full list of ideas for Italian posts to come.
  5. contact three bloggers to whom I have to ask/propose something – DONE and received an answer from two of them already
  6. set up the linked within widget – NOT DONE, because it’s not available for wordpress.com
  7. take time to write older Travel with books posts — NOT DONE 😦
  8. learn to comment more and better — NOT DONE 😦
  9. organize my sources for ideas for the Italian section — NOT DONE 😦

All in all I am happy with what I managed. Three posts over the weekend (and two for my other blog) is already over average for me, and I managed to do most of the housecleaning tasks I had set. (I am sorry about not commenting more, though. But I have a feeling that things were mostly happening in Twitter anyway.)

My mini challenges:

  • Beth’s categories/tags challenge: I finally have the categories I want!
  • Jessica’s spiffed up reviews challenge: see my levanter cloud image in the Gibraltar review? That’s it!
  • Melanie’s faster reviews challenge: it resulted in my review of Rome Burning
  • Beth’s opinion/list post challenge: I have scheduled an opinion post for tomorrow, stay tuned!
  • Emily’s fresh content challenge: I made up a ideas for future posts (but it’s secret… no spoiling the fun!)

And the rest:

I am set with a lot of things to do, now I only need not to let it go. We’ll see how it goes.

Thank you to our wonderful hosts! See you next time for more Bloggiesta!

ETA: I wrote the above before the official end-of-Bloggiesta post was published. Now that I’ve seen it, let me add a couple of things.

  • I appreciated the idea of Bloggiesta and it did turn out very useful, I’m glad there will be another soon-ish!
  • At the same time, for me it was quite a lonesome experience (despite a boom in visits and some comments). I know most of the activity was on Twitter, but am I the only one not twittering? (I really have no time nor sympathy for either that or Facebook…)
  • As for mini-challenges, I’d love to see one about organizing one’s reader and one’s sources for ideas, more in general. I guess there was something on those lines in past Bloggiestas, but I’d like a new take on it. And hosting one next time? Who knows… Maybe! I don’t know if I will be able to attend, but I will consider it.

And until next time: September 28, 29 and 30!