David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2 — Censorship

Censorship

• Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is anti-censorship and pro-free speech, and it has frequently been the target of censors. Some students once wrote Mr. Bradbury to tell him that a passage about abortion had been deleted from a textbook version of his novel. Mr. Bradbury examined the textbook version and discovered that the editors had “censored some 75 separate sections from the novel.”

• During his life, Voltaire was often under attack by censors, and he lived close to the border so he could escape to Switzerland if necessary. When the case against Voltaire’s Man With Forty Crowns was called, a magistrate asked, “Is it only his books we shall burn?”

Children

• When she was a young girl, Marion Dane Bauer, author of the 1987 Newbery Honor Book On My Honor, was asked to write essays on such topics as “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” Unfortunately, when she started to write papers about such things as camping trips, the events that had really happened seemed boring. No problem. Being an imaginative child, she simply embellished the truth and told about the bear that had rampaged through the campsite and ripped open the tent. Fortunately, being a heroic child as well as an imaginative child, she had saved her family by taking a burning stick from the campfire and setting the bear’s tail on fire. She did face a problem, however. What would her parents say if they read those school essays? No problem. On her way home from school were trashcans bearing the message KEEP YOUR CITY CLEAN. Being an obedient child as well as a heroic child, she tore her school essays into pieces and placed them in these trashcans.

• R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series of scary books for kids, was kind of a weird kid. He liked staying in his room and writing stories instead of going outside and playing sports. Sometimes, his parents would tell him, “Go out and play! What’s wrong with you!” Of course, occasionally he did go out. For example, each week he would get a trim at a barbershop, a task that often took hours. Why? The barbershop contained lots of comic books that the young R.L. Stine was forbidden to read at home. This early literary training paid off — Mr. Stine’s books have sold over 300 million copies! He writes books quickly, although he has had to pay a price for his prodigal output. He types with only one finger, and he says, “My poor finger is totally bent and crooked and ruined from typing so many books. I figure if the finger ever gives out, there goes the career.”

• On her 15th birthday, Jean Little — who later became a young people’s author — was reading one of her favorite books: Jane Eyre. She had reached an exciting episode — Jane being run down by Rochester’s horse — when her usual bedtime arrived. Because she wanted to read the episode, she scrunched down in her chair, hoping that her parents would forget that she was still up. Luck was with her. She finished that episode, then kept reading. Just then, her parents got up, and her mother asked her, “You’ll turn off the lights, won’t you?” Jean pointed out, “It’s way past my bedtime. You forgot to send me to bed.” Her mother replied, “You are 15. You should have sense enough by now to go to bed at a reasonable hour. From now on, your bedtime is your responsibility. Good night.” As her parents went to bed, Jean heard them laughing — they had known Jean was still up, and they had already decided that her bedtime was now her responsibility.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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