Ever get annoyed? Ever feel like someone needs to be told where the dog died? Or handed a crowbar and a tub of Elbow Grease to help them pry their head out of their arse? Congratulations--you've come to the right place.

And when I'm not commenting on the latest thing to piss me off, I'm trying to figure out my own twisted life. Because, hey, I'm like that.

On a gentler note: for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other assorted bullshit: You are NOT alone.

And if you're looking for a laugh, search on the key word "fuckery." It's just my little thing (as the bishop said to the actress).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Queen of the Banned!

Greetings, oh, my blurking darlings, and happy Banned Books Week!

As you know, your beloved Empress is a librarian.

Yep, a LIBRARIAN. Cast aside all of your hideously awful stereotypes of librarians... those of the uptight, baggy-clothed, tight-arsed (well, yeah, my arse IS tight, but I digress) bun-wearing, sexually repressed fascists of the Miss Pinch and Marian-the-Librarian mold. No, my cherished minions, librarians are none of the above. We ARE a quirky, odd bunch... a bit like witches (if you are a fan of Terry Pratchett, and if you are not, FOR SHAME!!!!!!!! *shakes finger* Go read a fuckin' book, you ignorant savage!). Anyhoo... Hey, it's nearly 10:30 p.m., I've been here for 12 hours, been through the Read Out (and read twice!), been to the doctor's, have successfully prevented myself from ceasing to breathe because of anaphylaxis, and I'm gettin' a little punchy. DEAL WITH IT.

Back to Librarians and Discworld witches... We are a quirky lot, those of us who are librarians in the "blood and bone," to borrow Sir Terry's phrase. Some of us meek and sweet, some of us outgoing and outrageous, every one of us to the last a rabble-rousing rebel when intellectual freedom is challenged.

Don't believe me? Well... let's take a peekieboo at Banned Books Week. Wanna know where the list stems from? (Of course you do!) See, the American Library Association has a form. If a cretinous moron with the mind of a failed parachute decides that a book needs to be kept from the hands of other humans, they attempt to force the book's removal from the shelves of a library OR be removed from a school's curriculum. Roughly 90% of the books on the Banned and Challenged list (this is not an official stat; this is a stat gained from a professional stat-compiler's eye for estimation) stem from school curriculum protests.


Busybody fuckin' parents trying to make rules for everybody's kids instead of just their own, so many of them "good Christians." Ignorant fuckin' cunts the lot of 'em. (Yeah, I just dropped the c-bomb. Dunt like it? TOUGH SHIT! Whaddya gonna do? CENSOR ME? This is an Over-18 Blog--PISS OFF!)* It makes me angry (not that you could tell). A book is a book. It's a collection of words and ideas. That's it.

Well, not really. See, I'm a true blue book geek. I go beyond bibliophile and into the area of bibliotaph.** I LOVE books. I read voraciously, usually with five going at once, and reread great books many times. I have travelled to England JUST to meet an author for the third time (yep, Terry Pratchett) because his books were so damn good. I have stood and wept in a bookstore upon discovering the death of a beloved author (Robert A. Heinlein, and I still want to know to whom he left his best bed). I have spent years involved in the debate over the authorship of Shakespeare because of my love for those works and my belief that a middle class glover's son from Stratford in the 16th century COULD NOT HAVE POSSIBLY written those works (and as a working class Boston Irish kid who came of age in the 80's, raised by a single mother who taught her from birth that if I could read, I could do ANYTHING; strict Catholic education in a time when public education was in the toilet; surrounded by the highest concentration of higher learning institutions in the world, EXCELLENT public libraries, television, access to newspapers, magazines, and later, interlibrary loan and the internet, there is a reason I am able to write about what-fucking-ever I choose to research thoroughly and can do so convincingly; Shakspur of Stratford DID NOT HAVE these things in England of the 1500's. There was no such a bloody thing as a "free press"--there were four of the damn things in the country, and all licensed by the Crown. Wanna know what happened to you if you published something unapproved? Google "Isle of Dogs." Go ahead. We'll wait... Yeah. Sorry, folks--reason and rationality don't allow the Stratford story to stand on no legs; yet again, I digress). Words... words are my weapons, in love and war, in all things... Words and the ability to use them effectively are POWER.

The greatest power any human being can possess.

As a Librarian, I am a defender and protector of the written word. A preservationist of knowledge. A guardian of the Right to Read. Sounds a bit silly? Not really. Not when you consider that every year, people try to stop other people from books they find offensive. Upsetting. Disturbing.

Now, "offensive" is a pretty subjective term. There are a lot of things I find incredibly offensive--most sitcoms, for instance, I find so fucking insipid, stupid, and badly written that I'd like to find the asshole who greenlighted them and run the fucker over and leave him/her to bleed in the ditch because I feel they are degrading the collective intelligence of the world. Ditto for reality TV (plus the fact that the writers--and the fucking shows are scripted, so grow up and grow a brain, it's just like professional wrestling--aren't paid union rates so they're getting fucked with a spiked stick)--it's the lowest form of entertainment. Garbage that feeds on the love of misery and watching others suffer and make asses of themselves. Makes me sick.


That's it, kids.

We live in a democracy. (Well, not really, but the illusion still exists to a point.) In a capitalist republic, the ONLY ACCEPTABLE FORM OF CENSORSHIP is LACK OF SPONSORSHIP. Translation: You don't like it, DON'T FUCKING BUY IT, STUPID. You really want to fuck 'em, DON'T BUY THE PRODUCTS OF THEIR SPONSORS.

That's it, kids. That's the only way to do it. Boycott. And if you're the only one, maybe you're the one who needs to pry your head out of your arse. Or, maybe you're right, but hey, no one agrees. Or is ready to wake up. (Example: I've been trying to get people to read Revolt in 2100 for years now, and few people have taken me up on it. Read it. After the 2 Bush presidential thefts, see if a shiver or three doesn't run up your spines. Do a google on "The Family" and see how many high-level politicians--and this is why you will NEVER get a vote out of me, Hilary Clinton--belong to an organization that wants to convert the world to conservative Xtianity... yeah, kids, I'll pass.) Either way, you can only make the decision for yourself and your children under the age of 18.

So today, my library sponsored its first ever Read Out. What's a Read Out? It's a gathering of folks reading excerpts from banned and challenged books.

It was joyful. Really, really joyful. We didn't have a whole heck of a lot of people, but it was lovely. Intimate. Like a storytelling circle... all that was missing was the fire in the middle.

See, first and foremost, I consider myself a storyteller. When I was seriously in theatre and directing and acting, that was what I was doing. Telling stories. Interpretting stories. It was this philosophy that got me accepted into the MFA program at the Actor's Studio (I never went; no way I could ever live in NYC; I'd kill people). Now that I've moved into comedy (well, back into comedy--I was always a comic actor), I know that I'm more of a storyteller than a gag-man,*** so I'm probably going to go for staging a one-woman show rather than just the open mic gigging. It's about the set-up and the build, not about the rim shot. That approach just doesn't work for me... the one-liners, the jokes, the gags. Anyway, there is a joy in storytelling. My happiest memories of family are of storytelling (and I don't include my father's stories in here. *shudder* There are just some things you SHOULD NOT KNOW about your parents). Ditto for acting school--as magnificent a teacher as Kristin Linklater is (and she is, hells, yes, she is), my favorite memories from her Shakespearean Acting class are the times she'd gather us all about and tell us stories from her days in New York and London.

There is a magic there... the gathering, the sharing... the knowing that you are a now a part of the story, a part of the history. You become connected to those other human beings and they to you because you have shared something fundamentally primordial, one of the essential things that make us human. Today, in the Atrium lit by the warm glow of the reading lamps while the winds from the latest tropical storm howled about the building, we gathered together in a circle and shared stories. Some of them awful... In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, about the American Indian Movement and the death of Anna May Pictou, read by a transgendered woman just coming out... The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, one of the most horrifying, heart-breaking novels I have ever read, read by an aging African American woman who lived through civil rights, taught in some of the poorest rural schools, and knows too well the damage the 11-year-old child of that story suffers... I Like Guys by David Sedaris, read by a young man in a wheelchair who had fought to get the book Naked (along with other banned books) reinstated in his rural high school...

And then there were the moments of joy. Jabberwocky. I was quoting along the entire time under my breath, grinning. Hills Like White Elephants. I've never read ol' Papa Hemingway, but I just may give the old fucker a chance. The Chocolate War, read by the author's son. The Song of Solomon, read by a lovely, lovely writer friend who came over just to read.

I read twice. Our Harry Potter reader had to cancel, so I jumped in with a bit from Deathly Hallows. I chose the part of the book that, the first time I read it, caused me to shut the book, clutch it to my chest, and sob like a broken child for the loss of the character. (The chapter is "Malfoy Manor"--I know at least one reader has not read it yet, so no spoilers.) And, yeah, I cried this time, too. The second reading (sounds like church, dunnit? Libraries ARE sacred places--they are temples to the written word) was from The Lord of the Rings. No surprises there, eh?

Lord of the Rings is the book that changed my life. I'm a writer because of Professor Tolkien and the nightmares that the Black Riders gave me. My first ever fantasy novel began as a result of one of those nightmares--"black riders on milk horses." It was a piece of piss (Gods, I love that phrase... thank you, FuckWad, it's the one thing you really gave me) as all first efforts are, but it put my feet on the road. I read The Hobbit when I was eight--checked it out of the public library and took it away to that torture chamber called summer camp. While the other evil little bitches napped, I got lost in Middle Earth. When I found out there was more, I had to have it. Of course, back then, there were no electronic catalogs in the Somerville Public Library. I didn't know that The Trilogy was upstairs in the adult section. So, it was another three years before I got a chance to read it. I was enrolled in an afterschool activity (fuck that, it was group therapy and I hated it--wankfest of bullshit. The only useful thing to come out of it was reading the book What's Happening to Me which prepared me thoroughly for puberty and masturbation) and wanted out. There were five meetings left, and my mother came home with a yellow bag from Lauriat's Bookstore. In that bag was a boxed set of four novels--The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. I remember the box... it was gold foil with bosses from The Silmarillon on it.

Now, my Mum is a clever lady (as daft as she's getting now). She knew the only way to really bribe me was to waft a book under my nose because if asked to sell my soul, money would never budge me, but offer me a book I was salivating to read and couldn't find... oh, I would gladly surrender my soul for the book. And the bitch bribed me. I endured the intellectual wankfest for the five more sessions just to get my hands on those books. And I got 'em.

Bliss. Heaven. The world... the world opened up. I have read The Trilogy at least once a year, every year, since 1979. Do the math. You could drop my fat arse down in Middle Earth, and I could find my way anywhere with a compass. I wouldn't need a map; I memorized that one years ago. The movies... I still have a case of the ass with the films, but I also respect the hell out of Jackson, Boyens & Walsh for their incredible achievement in adapting them. I couldn't have done it--I revere the books too much. Visually... I wept during the first film because for the first time in so many years, I was seeing Middle Earth unfold before me, and it was as I had dreamt it... green, beautiful, heaven... home. They even redeemed a character I had hated forever--Boromir. If the extended version had been released, Sean Bean would've gotten the Oscar nod, not Sir Ian. He brought that character to life, and for the first time ever, I saw the Captain of the White Tower and knew why he was beloved of his men and his brother, the true Numenorean. (However, I will never forgive them for cutting out the brains and balls of Faramir. SHAME!) I have friends who would shag Sean Bean in a blink; me, I'd need him in Boromir gear. Then... well, even a whip and a chair wouldn't save him from being ravished. Yeah.

But I digress. Again.

My childhood best friend and I bonded over that book; we passed the novels back and forth. As a wedding gift, I found a set of them with the identical covers (mine had long since disintegrated) for her. I own the Red Book of Westmarch version, as well as the omnibus trade paper edition which has been recovered and taped (and needs a good regluing)--that was the one I read from today.

I chose two bits: "The Choices of Master Samwise," where Sam thinks Frodo has been killed by Shelob and must take up the quest by himself, and the final parting when Frodo tells Sam that while he has saved the Shire, he is far too damaged to remain. I ended with Gandalf's words: "Go in peace. I will not say, 'do not weep,' for not all tears are an evil."

And, yeah, I was tearing up at that. In this time of war, it hit home a little hard. See, as a child of a Vietnam vet (and the ex-girlfriend of a couple of them, as well as an ex-wife of a section 8), I'm from the generation that paid for that war. The emotional price of wounded parents, lovers, brothers, friends... wounded nation, from a generation that never knew a time when we could unequivocably believe in our nation. And now... now, we're fighting an even dirtier, more disgusting war than Vietnam ever dreamed of being, and good people are paying the highest price:

"It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, to save them, so that others may keep them."

Shit, I'm crying again. So this is my little way of saving what I love the most--the written word. I am a Librarian. And because I love them so much and so dearly, because I know what the written word has done for me--how it has shaped me, the worlds books have opened for me that I would never, ever have known... because I am a better person for the gift of the writers whose words I have devoured again and again... because I was taught to love and respect those words, and that I had a gift that I had to use for good purpose... I am a Librarian. I will do my utmost to make sure you get the books you need and the books you want. And I will FIGHT LIKE HELL to make sure you get access to them.

Coda: If you would like to know just how fierce librarians really are, there are two really great concrete examples.

The first is in the introduction to one of Michael Moore's books, I think, Dude, Where's My Country. In it, Mike dedicates and thanks librarians because it was librarians who first picked up his book and promoted it. Love him or hate him, he's made sure that people know the other side of the propaganda (and yeah, I know, he pushes propaganda of his own).

The other book is This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. I haven't read the whole book (haven't had time), BUT... Marilyn Johnson has written a fabulous account of life in the trenches. You know the Patriot Act? Know who first really challenged the Constitutionality of it? Yep. Librarians. She busts apart the stereotype and lays it down with humor and respect. Good read. I recommend it! ISBN 9780061431609, available everywhere, including via interlibrary loan (if your librarian hasn't checked it out for her/himself).

OK, kids, it's nearing midnight, and this witch needs to visit the beach before taking off on her broomstick for NYC--gonna see Jim Jefferies tomorrow night!!!!!!--and then Nova Scotia.

Keep the faith--keep reading.

Much love,
Your Empress

*Guess who I'm going to see tomorrow night! ;-)
** Book hoarder. I'm OK with it.
***Yeah, I know, not gender correct, but I hate the intellectual Naziism of political correctness.

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