Just when we think we're out of the 19th century, they pull us back in.
This week, the Charleston County School Board will meet to decide whether they actually need to ban a book.
As Diette Courrege reported Saturday, the parents of a Wando High student have challenged the school's inclusion of Bret Lott's "The Hunt Club" on a summer reading list. For years, the book was one of eight options for incoming juniors -- the kids pick a novel from the list, read it and write something about it. It's a good program.
The upshot is that "The Hunt Club" could go from being recommended reading to banned from all school libraries. Which is not exactly what the parents asked, but no matter. This is not what we need to be doing. In a final little twist of fate, the school board is going to hold this farce of a hearing smack in the middle of national Banned Books Week 2011.
Power of printed words
"The Hunt Club" is a murder mystery and a coming-of-age story set in the Lowcountry.
It's no wonder the district put it on the list, as Lott's book has a terrific sense of place that makes it compelling to anyone who lives here. Yeah, the book deals with some adult themes, there is some strong language -- criminals rarely talk politely -- and there are a couple of racial slurs. Again, what do you expect from lowlifes?
If this story were a film, few parents would say anything about a teenager old enough to drive watching it. And, sad but true, you could probably hear the words in this book in any high school hallway in America. But somehow seeing this stuff in print is all the more powerful.
And that's the point of reading.
We desperately need to get the next generation interested in reading something longer than 140 characters at a time. There is enough attention deficit as it is. If a murder mystery introduces someone to the joy of reading, then it's doing a better job than some Victorian novel that doesn't offend, but doesn't relate to today's world.
These things rarely turn out well. Just recently, someone published a new version of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" with the offending racial slurs removed. That's what small minds get you. Twain wrote perhaps the most socially progressive novel of the 19th century, and people let a little word get in the way of his message?
Now, it would not be unreasonable for the district to include parental advisories on its reading lists. Censorship, however, is another thing entirely. A school board should have more sense.
Of course, if Lott's book is banned -- he's a super-nice guy, by the way -- it would join some fine company: "The Catcher in the Rye," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and, ironically enough, "Fahrenheit 451."
Know what those books have in common, other than that someone tried to ban them? They're classics.
We don't need to ban books, we need more people to read them.
Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.