Free Will and Bonfires

I waited until today to do my own tribute to Banned Books Week.

Seemed right to me, to let everyone have their say and make their plugs. Not that I don’t care, but maybe because I care so much.

I’m a believer in reading. In asking questions. I believe there’s nothing you can read or encounter that will taint or stain anyone beyond repair. We are elastic beings. More, we deserve the opportunity to decide for ourselves what ideas to keep and which to reject.

That’s the foundation of Free Will.

I remember finding out that there were periods in human history when people were to read only the Bible and nothing else. To keep their thoughts pure. As if people aren’t capable of culling the garbage for themselves. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.

You don’t get to decide for me.

So, in honor of Banned Books Week, I’ll take on the red-headed stepchild on the list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009: Twilight.

Yeah, I know. Twilight?? The megaseller everyone seems to love to hate? But yes. The series is Number Five on the list for: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group.

I first learned about Twilight when my friend RoseMarie London sent me a note from an editor-friend in New York City. The friend said she’d spent the weekend under the spell of this new book and how could she be so in love with a completely chaste hero? Knowing I was interested in such things, RM sent me the email and said maybe I should read it.

I did. And fell in love, too.

It’s easy to hurl stones at the massively successful. To find the cracks and pick fun at the giants. But I can vouch that, before it was THE THING, Twilight seduced me. Creating sexual tension where there is no actual sex is no mean feat. And if anyone thinks that being a teenager isn’t just like that, well then… no one can help you.

More, I know a teenage brother and sister. The older sister is a bookworm, the younger brother a budding jock and social butterfly. They both stayed in all weekend to read the newest installment on the Twilight series. Only the boy asked his mother to lie to his friends that called and say he was doing chores.

He didn’t want them to know what he was really doing.

Any book, or series of books, so compelling as to make a social teenager duck the peer pressure of his friends is a book that prevents more robots.

Fight the good fight. Buy a banned or challenged book.

Our children will thank you for what you gave them, not what you kept them from.

11 Replies to “Free Will and Bonfires”

  1. I know, it's easy to dog Twilight, but anything that gets folk reading is a good thing in my view.

    Well said, good lady.

  2. I agree with Simon–if it gets people to read, it's okay by me. I haven't (yet) read Twilight (me & maybe one other person on the planet), but I wouldn't dream of dissing someone else's chosen reading material–mainly because I'd prefer others keep their negative opinions of MY reading material to themselves.

  3. I've always been an advocate of reading (of course, I've been a bookworm since I was 12, so yeah I'm biased). I've often told the younger people in my family, "I don't care what you read, only that you do." They don't listen to me, of course, but at least I tried.

    Great post, Jeffe.

  4. Thanks, you three. I don't get why dissing something that makes someone happy is a cool thing. Yes, read. Just please read.

  5. Bravo…raising my glass to you. Well if it were 5:00 I would be raising my real glass to you. Tell you what this afternoon at cocktail time I will say a toast in your honor. Someday I would like to meet and get drinks because I think our conversations would be very interesting.

    Another great post. You are on a serious roll this week!

    Read on!


  6. Your grandfather was all for "intellectual freedom" as he called it. Being in the movie business, he didn't approve of censorship in any guise. I was 14 when Peyton Place was published (hot stuff in the 50s) and Dad didn't bat an eye when he saw me reading it. He believed that if we could understand it, we could read it. More than a little of Pat McGee lives on in you.

  7. You know I'm a sucker for boats and cocktails, Kelly – sign me up!

    Ah, Mom – that means so much to me. I remember that about Papa. It makes me feel good to know some of him, the best part of him, lives on in me.

  8. Brave post, Jeffe. I haven't read Twilight. I watched (and hated) the movie. I am, I confess, one of those people who scoffs this book every time I get the opportunity. Not my best behavior, I see that, especially as I haven't even read it and am basing my opinion solely on the movie and what I've heard from others. I do agree this far: obviously Meyers did something right when she wrote this series, and yes, it gets kids reading. These are all good things.

    As for banning books – I told my kids long ago that if they were capable of reading a book, and wanted to read it, they should go for it. I tried to encourage them to talk to me about what they were reading. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. They have both learned to think for themselves, so I can't see that any harm has come to them.

  9. "I'm a believer in reading. In asking questions. I believe there's nothing you can read or encounter that will taint or stain anyone beyond repair. We are elastic beings. More, we deserve the opportunity to decide for ourselves what ideas to keep and which to reject."

    WELL SAID. Bravo!

  10. Thanks, Posey! It's always interesting to see my words quoted back to me – they never look quite the same.

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