New York, December 20, 1909. "S.L. Clemens." Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, aboard the Bermudian after a trip to Bermuda, four months before his death. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. Source: Shorpy
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” ― Ray Bradbury
BETWEEN THE LINES: About 18 months ago, a debate took place at a Canarsie elementary school over a book of poems, when parents objected to some content, such as an anti-war poem with a line that President Bush “loves war so much he gets an erection,” and another about a crack-addicted hooker performing lewd acts.
City Councilman Charles Barron, who wrote the forward to the 2006 collection — which was authored by his goddaughter, Tylibah Washington — defended the book, noting it “speaks to the experiences and struggles of inner city youth,” though he subsequently acknowledged portions of it might be inappropriate for pre-teens.
Nevertheless, in a follow-up, Barron — who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for the newly-created 8th Congressional District seat — objected to editing the poetry book, yet he called for removing Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from classrooms because the “despicable N” word is used numerous times.
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Source: Wikimedia Commons
One hundred and seven years before stodgy ol’ librarians were banning 50 Shades of Grey from public bookshelves, they were banning the great Mark Twain stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. So, naturally, the bondage and wild sex adventures penned by E L James are well on their way to the top of the American literary canon, no?
Well, I don’t know about that.
But I do know that one my favorite websites, Letters of Note, which digs up and publishes letters from notable individuals living and dead, has found a letter that brings us back to that earlier controversy – and ties in a Sheepshead Bay connection, too.
In 1905, Asa Don Dickinson, a librarian at the Sheepshead Bay branch of the Brooklyn Public Library (who established the first blind services in a public library, and later became Brooklyn College’s first chief librarian), wrote to Twain, alerting him to plans underway that would have his books removed from the system’s children’s departments. Dickinson, himself more than a little facetious in his letter, received a few sarcastic words in reply.
Read the letters here.