Sox clubbed, books listed

Sox were “Canadian clubbed” last night in Toronto, losing 9–2, giving up three homers.  Thus Chi Trib, which gets the headline nod today over Sun-Times, with its strained (hard-copy, not online) “Toronto Rappers,” referring to the homers — rapped, I guess — and the Toronto NBA team, Raptors, I also guess.  Take it away, Trib!

Meanwhile, it was off to the culture-war races in Arlington Heights (who would want to live there? it’s so far away), where the high school board went on for five hours about whether to delist some book titles from the required reading list.  This was not book banning, no matter what Sun-Times has in its head and story in the sense that a library takes books off shelves, not even the school library, but parental objections to making kids read purple-prose-purveyor Morrison, wildly leftist iconoclastic Vonnegut Jr., Freakonomics (?),

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried; Kate Chopin's The Awakening; The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez,

about only one of which, Chopin’s, do I have an opinion, a very high one, in fact, thanks to James Tuttleton’s discussion of her in his 1994 book Vital Signs: Essays on American Literature and Criticism (Ivan Dee, Chicago).  That is, I take Tuttleton’s highly refined opinion in the matter even as I take it as to her being shanghaied by radical feminists dying to prove their point.

There’s lots to be said about these works, to be sure, and it is to hear some of it that we entrust our children to English teachers.  So it is that the sole school board member, Leslie Pinney, did all of us a service by objecting to their required use and instigating a long discussion attended by 750 people — number arrived at by adding Chi Trib’s 500 to Sun-Times’ 1,000 and dividing by two.  (Do the math!)

Again, as reported by Rumana Hussain in Sun-Times, and she was there, we presume — the Trib was not or in any event gave it short shrift — this was about a reading requirement, not reading the books and talking about them, unless Hussain and her editors wanted the story to simply avoid this difference, in which case they should memorize “the Lay of the Last Minstrel” by deadline time Monday.

Note, however, the Trib’s short but sweet rendering:

[A] northwest suburban school board rejected early Friday an attempt by one member to remove nine books she considers objectionable from a required-reading list. [Italics mine]

The Arlington Hts-based Daily Herald has the story big on its site, as to be expected, very interestingly deleting with “(expletive)” two words or phrases, thus bowing to the inescapable issue of taste, as in words you use in polite company.  I made that argument in objecting to the Society of Midland Authors’ giving an award last year to a book about poker-playing in sin-city Las Vegas that opened with gore and sex and bloody murder. 

As a nonfiction judge, I told all the judges in an email, I was accustomed to reading from a winning book, as were some other judge-award-presenters.  If I couldn’t read from the book at a Midland Authors annual dinner, it didn’t deserve our award, I said.  But another judge, a high-school English teacher, took me up on that, defending the book in question.

So we have horse races, and I return to the notion that this board member deserves applause for dragging into the open an issue that should not remain under table, entre nous, or relegated to a subject for muttering about.

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