This week is Banned Books Week, according to the American Library Association, and here’s a list of some of the most popular ones.  I’ve read about half of the books on the list, and among them are some of my favorites, including Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Lord of the Rings, and A Clockwork Orange.

Of particular interest (to me, anyway) was the inclusion of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, thanks in part to my beloved alma mater, the Yakima School District:

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Excerpts banned in Butler, PA (1975); removed from the high school English reading list in St. Francis, WI (1975). Retained in the Yakima, WA schools (1994) after a five-month dispute over what advanced high school students should read in the classroom. Two parents raised concerns about profanity and images of violence and sexuality in the book and requested that it be removed from the reading list.

Thanks, Yakima.  That must be why we had to suffer through forgettably crappy books like Silas Marner and Billy Budd instead of ‘real’ books that people read everywhere else.  When my English teacher (God rest her soul, assuming that she’s dead) assigned us Silas Marner, she said, “You’re not going to like this book, but that’s what we’re going to read.”

I was the quietest, shyest (shiest?) person in human history back then, but I raised my hand, and she motioned for me to speak.

“I love to read, and there are a lot of books out there.  Isn’t there something else with a similar message that maybe we would enjoy?”

“I’m sure there is, but we’re going to read this.”

That happened in my sophomore year of high school, and that’s the point at which I officially gave up.  Coincidentally enough, I got my first electric guitar not long after that.  I thank GreatSpirit every day that I already loved to read, because the vast majority of the people I knew in Yakima actually hated reading due to the so-called learning environment we had in our schools.  I, on the other hand, had my life saved by books, and it breaks my heart to know that people all over the country are trying at this very moment to deprive kids of that experience.

That being said, I have to go on record and say that a ban is sometimes the best thing that could possibly happen to a creative work, because it creates a controversy, and then people will buy the work just to see what all the fuss is about.  I worked in a record store at the time 2 Live Crew’s Nasty As They Wanna Be came out, and our dusty copies sat on the shelf for months until it got banned, and then we couldn’t order copies fast enough to fulfill the overwhelming demand for it.  Those guys are multi-millionaires by now, but I’m positive that they’d be just another group of obscure hip hop also-ran’s without the ban.

I think Oscar Wilde was correct with his famous line from The Picture of Dorian Gray, “There is only thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is NOT being talked about.”

Suffice it to say that when I write a book, I give you permission to ban it.  In fact, I encourage you to ban it.  I want it to cause so much controversy that I have to go into hiding for years, like Salman Rushdie and J. D. Salinger did.

And now, I have some reading to do.  The first book on my list is Invisible Man.