Wearing my handsome and, it seems, provocative "Peace. Love. Books" T-shirt the other day, purchased as a birthday present for me by the Biblio-Gal, a puzzled, perhaps delighted clerk took me in, admittedly long-haired (graying), middle-aged dude in cool Ray-Bans possessing, yes, a certain je ne sai quoi and offered, unembarrassed, unshyly that I was "Something right out of the '60s." Unsure if that was a good thing, I smiled that winning (if charmingly condescending) Bibliofella smile and explained that he was right (though he was wrong) because, indeed, having been born in 1960, you couldn't be any more "out of" that era than me, could you? Of course, I knew what he meant, but the universal and timeless ideals of peace, love and reading books have been advanced by many for decades, centuries, and I probably should be pleased that he didn't see me as out of the 1930s, though, of course, that's a decade of radical political activism I would also have been right at home in.
I'm just fine with my own era, thank you, and can't stand the dumb, easy demographic identification via
magazine-style lowest common denominator. The T-shirt was from a favorite indie bookstore,
Point Reyes Books
, where I have spent happy hippie hours reading, and being from all kinds of times and places, yet still close to the magnificent
, the rolling hills,
and other thoughtful people who perhaps, unlike the clerk, get out a bit and meet interesting people . . . like me!
Still, that clerk gave me my lead for this week's post, and what I should probably do is track him down and gift him a book. And blow his mind, man. Or let him know about those other people, a lot of them out of the '60s, who don't like books and want others to be frightened, timid, incurious.
I know it's only early August, but there's no time like right now to start planning for the next American Library Association's Banned Books Week. I've organized public read-ins and talks in past years for this wing-ding. It's fun! Maybe I will stand outside a Ralphs in Lake Forest and read dirty books, thus being another easy stereotype! Below is a handy (alas, incomplete!) list from which you and I might pick excerpts from work to which some knucklehead or other has objected, for all kinds of so-called reasons, concerns or, mostly, to ostensibly "protect" children from words, even as we spend millions dropping--no, not books--bombs and drones and handguns on the world's kids. Don't get me started! (Oh, and what is it with Ralphs not having an apostrophe? Is it that there are so many guys named Ralph or that he has a store?)
"Damn liberals can't spell" - Ralph
Yup, all across the US of A, Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, non-knucklehead Americans will go all out for the 30th annual celebration of my favorite holiday, if still the kind you have to go to work for. The title of this year's celebration is "Thirty Years of Liberating Literature." Dig it, as they used to say in the '50s and '60s. Cool. Awesome. Bitchen. Groovy, too. Unlike the totally uncool people who didn't like these books and, according to the Office of Intellectual Freedom (Freadom) at the ALA, challenged, pulled, removed them from shelves in public libraries, school libraries or bookstores.
Here, then, some of their unfavorites: The Catcher in the Rye. Beloved. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Catch-22. 1984. Animal Farm. Everything by Judy Blume! The Grapes of Wrath. Find a more complete list at its nifty website.
And while you've got your calendar out, do pencil in the weekend of Sept. 21 and 22, which marks Chapman University's inaugural writing conference, modestly titled the Big Orange Book Festival: A Festival for Wordies, Film Buffs and Artists In the Heart of Orange County. And, yes, from the Land of Kismet, this Sunday morning blog's intellectual freedom through-line arrives courtesy actress Mary Badham, who as a child played Scout in the excellent film adaptation of everybody's favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird.
She'll be at the conference. Except, wait, the seminal 1960 (sic!) novel about the South and America and injustice and integrity and secrets, is one of those books --- you guessed it! --- absolutely most assaulted by unhappy morons eager to add it to the virtual bonfire. Badham joins more than a dozen local and national writers of crime and fantasy and literary fiction and memoir and all the rest of it on the little college campus with busts of Margaret Thatcher and Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan and George Schultz, which goes to show that people can be so wrong about so many things and yet still be right-on about a lot others. Except that somebody famously stole the Reagan and the Schultz, which makes me smile. A guy in Huntington Beach collected a $250 reward when he found Schultz in a trash can. Reagan's head remains at large.
In no particular order, but to inspire you to keep a lookout for more information (here) on prices, lineup and other details, here are a few of the excellent writers appearing a the Big Orange Book Festival.
Alison Benis White, author of two quietly brilliant poetry collections.
Alice Sebold, author of a novel you and the whole world may have heard about, telling the story of a murdered girl name Susie Salmon, and a memoir, Lucky, about sexual violence, family and memory. I certainly hope the organizers have asked Sebold (like White, a UC Irvine MFA grad) to present the keynote address.
Sapphire, celebrated poet, performance artist and, of course, novelist whose Push became the filmPrecious.
Gustavo Arellano, editor in chief of a certain alternative weekly in Orange County, political advice columnist, food writer, occasional KPFK radio host. Has anybody noticed that the OC Weekly does community reporting the other papers ignore? Or that the families of the recent Anaheim police riots sent their photos and video to Gustavo at the Weeklyand not, say, the other two papers?
Edward Humes, author most recently of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash.
Martin Smith, who will no doubt be reading from and talking about his newest nonfiction treat of a book, one that nobody but Marty could write, called The Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. So, yes, strange and wonderful little book from the editor in chief of fancy-fun Orange Coast magazine, former assistant editor at the Los Angeles Times, crime novelist and author of other terrific weird books with long, instructive subtitles. Just now I am reading uncorrected proofs of Wild Duck and will review it here, with hopes of hosting Mr. Smith on Bibliocracy Radio. Just because I am such a darn '60s of a person! Sheesh.
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So, here's your first head's-up toward encouraging you to attend the Big Orangeand organizing a read-in or literature table at your place of work or study--or at the entrance to Ralphs. Seize the day. Seize the book.
Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday-night literary-arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK-FM 90.7 in Southern California.