Critical Linking: July 20, 2014

Singapore on Friday stopped its national library from destroying two children’s books with gay themes following an outcry over literary censorship in the tightly regulated city-state.

Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim ordered the books moved to the adult section, where parents can borrow them for their children, after another title had already been “pulped” by the National Library Board (NLB).

So it’s good they’re not pulping the books anymore, but it’s still sad to see this kind of censorship on a national level.

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“Looking for Alaska” is so popular right now, that there’s not one available at a public library throughout all of Waukesha County.

Cox said despite the book’s popularity, she’s standing behind her decision to get the book out of the school.

“As a parent, it’s my duty to teach, to protect, to watch over her and each parent has their own opinion on that,” Cox said.

Another day, another parent hoping to ban a book for all kids. It’s this parent’s job to watch over her kid — and the kids of every other parent. No word yet on how the school’s handling this, which most likely means they’re following policy.

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I’ve had ups and downs with this notion, in my own feelings of insecurity, and in studying the words of Steinbeck; not just the play itself, but in a letter that was passed on to me by our director at the beginning of our run, written by Steinbeck to Claire Luce, the actress who originated the role on stage. In the letter, Steinbeck sheds light on what is behind this character without a name, writing that, “She was told over and over that she must remain a virgin because that was the only way she could get a husband … She only had that one thing to sell and she knew it.” He goes on, “She is a nice, kind girl and not a floozy. No man has ever considered her as anything except a girl to try to make … As to her actual sex life — she has had none except with Curley and there has probably been no consummation there since Curley would not consider her gratification and would probably be suspicious if she had any.” I can barely read the letter now without tearing up at the thought of this imaginary woman, what she stands for, and what she loses. It’s only become clear to me during my time with Curley’s wife exactly how subversive Steinbeck’s work is, and how he must have intended it.

It’s been years since I read Of Mice and Men, but this makes me want to reread it. I don’t remember Curley’s wife at all, let alone the way people reacted to her. Steinbeck, I had no idea.

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