Posts Tagged ‘popular literature’
Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn explains how the Toronto Public Library responds to requests that particular books be withdrawn from circulations. (Apparently Canada’s better than the United States, owing to the protection given library collections by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the strong opposition of professional library associations to censorship.)
Since 2000, around 100 requests for reconsideration have been filed—and only nine items have been removed. The most recent title to be pulled, Date Rape: A Violation of Trust, was withdrawn from the video collection in 2012 because it, “while well-intentioned, reinforces stereotypes and lacks diversity and is, therefore, not appropriate as an educational tool in Toronto’s multiracial and multicultural environment.” Other titles have vanished for reasons including libel threats, unreliable accounts of Romanian history, bad advice on passing business accreditation exams, outdated information on dairy farming—and being poorly produced knockoffs of Pixar films made by the highly esteemed Video Brinquedo studio (What’s Up: Balloon to the Rescue).
Other reconsidered titles find new homes within the library system. Tintin in the Congo, for example, which features controversial depictions of Africans, was moved from the children’s collection to the adult graphic novel section in 2010. Not all suggestions from complainants can be acted upon: one 2003 complaint about eye weekly urged the library to provide copies sans escort ads. And in 2006, a patron requested that a rabbi review the content of Sarah Silverman’s film Jesus is Magic.
The most popular requests for consideration between 2000 and 2013? It’s a tie between Maxim magazine (2005 and 2006; one request suggested users be IDed lest it fall into the hands of innocent youth) and Robert Kaplow’s The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun, a raunchy parody of The Cat Who… mystery series (2005 and 2007).
Library staff have not noticed trends in the complaints, and are proud of how few requests for reconsideration come in. Vickery Bowles, director of Collections Management and City-Wide Services, feels this reflects Torontonians’ “appreciation for the breadth and depth of our collections and the fact we are living in a large urban setting.” She believes that the public senses that “intellectual freedom in the public library setting is very important” and that the widest variety of available materials should be offered.
NOW Toronto‘s Sarah Greene has a nice piece talking about how The Annex’s Book City was a hub for Torontonian writers for quite a while.
Book City alumna Alana Wilcox, now editorial director at nearby Coach House Books, worked at various locations including the Annex store for seven years, and still drops off boxes of Coach House books by bike.
“It was a real community space,” she says of working there in the mid- to late 90s. “People would go to the bar, have a drink and on the way home stop at Book City and have long neighbourhood conversations. They’d stay for hours just chatting with their friends.”
Nathalie Atkinson, now a culture columnist and editor at the National Post, concurs. “I loved working the Friday-night shift because it was festive,” she says. “You could tell who was on a date.”
[. . .]
“I was there 74 years,” jokes author Derek McCormack, who was at Book City for about a dozen years and whose first book, Dark Rides, was published in that period, during what he calls the “CanLit boom.” (He now works at Type Books.)
“There was a moment there with Ondaatje and Atwood and Rohinton Mistry when Canadians seemed really proud that we were suddenly stepping onto the world stage, and there was also a boom in young writers and in presses starting up.”
As a young writer/bookseller, he knew he was brushing shoulders with publishers, editors and journalists as well as writers like Margaret Atwood, Graham Gibson and Barbara Gowdy.
“Half of literary Toronto has worked at Book City,” says Wilcox. And I’m not sure that’s much of an exaggeration: André Alexis, John Lorinc, Howard Akler, Chris Chambers, Paul Vermeersch and Jason McBride all did.
Jo Walton‘s recently reposted essay for Tor.com, “Have We Lost the Future?”, makes for interesting reading. This isn’t only me speaking, recovering from my own unhappy experience with Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312. Walton makes some very interesting points about the futures imagined by science fiction writers, the ways they just don’t work with our actual realities and the ways in which futures have developed unexpectedly to observers in past generations, and the need–and ability–for science fiction to adopt new paradigms to continue to be relevant.
I think there used to be a science fiction consensus future in which we’d expand slowly out from Earth and colonize the moon and Mars and the Belt, which would be full of independent-minded asteroid miners, and outward to the stars, at first slower and then faster than light, meeting aliens and ending with galactic empires. The Cold War, naturally, would still be going on in the twenty-sixth century, and if not there would be some Cold War analog dividing humanity into big ideological blocs. Lots of the SF written between 1930 and 1989 fit into this rough future outline. It didn’t belong to anyone. Everyone could set things within this rough future and make their own specific corner of it shine. Details differed, but this was The Future we were headed for, this was almost destiny. [. . .]
I remember reading Bruce Sterling’s short story “We See Things Differently” in 1991 in a Dozois’s Best SF, and having the same feeling I had when the Berlin Wall came down. This wasn’t the future I expected to be living in. We were off track for that SF consensus future. And we sent robots out to explore the solar system for us, and there weren’t any Martians, and it seemed as if maybe space wasn’t the U.S. frontier with a different atmosphere.
When I’m writing here about older SF, I often laugh at their hilarious huge clunky computers and add “But where is my moonbase?”
During the panel I mentioned Arthur C. Clarke’s examplary little boy who would read SF and say “When I grow up, I’m going to the moon.” I was that little boy, I said, and of course everyone laughed. There are ways in which this future, the one we’re living in, is a whole lot better than what we imagined. It has women in it, and it has women who are not just trophies and are not manipulating their way around because they have no power. This future has women with agency. It has men and women who aren’t white and who aren’t sitting at the back of the bus or busy passing. It has gay people out of the closet, it has transgender people, and all over the place, not only in the worlds of Samuel Delany. Beyond that, unimaginably shaping the future we couldn’t imagine getting, it has the internet.
So this is my question. If, when you were twelve, somebody had given you a straight choice for 2012, which would you have chosen, moonbase or internet? (Let’s assume they could have explained fully what the internet was and how it would affect your life.) Moonbase, or internet? It really isn’t easy.
[. . .]
As for SF—I don’t think it has run out of ideas. I do think it’s a betrayal of the future to write things set in futures we can’t get to. And I always want more books with spaceships and aliens. But I recently read M.J. Locke’s Up Against It, which is set in space in our future and is wonderful and just the sort of thing to give me faith that there’s a lot of juice in the genre yet. And there’s plenty of future coming for it to work out.
What say you? (I think she’s basically right, for whatever it’s worth.)