Archive for September, 2010
Apparently the Pentagon decided to commemorate Banned Books Week early, and last Monday burned 9,500 copies of Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer. The Pentagon spent $47,000 buying every copy of the first printing directly from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and then destroyed all the books because “they contained information which could cause damage to national security”, according to Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. April Cunningham. The memoir details Lt. Col. Shaffer’s time as leader of a black-ops unit in Afghanistan during the Bush administration. In the book, Shaffer is said to detail intelligence operations against the Taliban, and critique the Bush administration for it’s lack of understanding of Afghan culture as well as “bureaucratic bungling.”
In a Defense Intelligence Agency memo from August 6, Lt. Gen. Robert Burgess claims that the DIA had been trying to get its hands on the manuscript for two months because the department determined that it contained classified information. It was at this point that the Pentagon contacted St. Martin’s Press and made an agreement about the first and subsequent printings. A second printing of the book has been released and incorporates changes the government requested, including redacting information the Pentagon considered classified. Shaffer had submitted the book to the Army Reserve Command before it went to the press, and it was given the green light. The Department of Defense acknowledges this, but says that failing to clear the book with the larger Army and the DOD means Shaffer “did not meet the requirements under Department of Defense regulations for security review.” Of the redacted material in the second edition, Shaffer says, “When you look at what they took out, it’s lunacy.”
Clearly the Pentagon’s hope was to prevent people from reading Lt. Col. Shaffer’s memoir, but this highly publicized buying and burning of the first printing undoubtedly is only generating more interest in the book. As the US Financial Post points out, the original 10,000 copy print run indicates that the publisher did not expect much interest in the memoir to begin with, but the Pentagon’s action practically guarantees a greater demand for the second printing.
There is at least one seller on Ebay claiming to be in possession of a copy of the first printing, and is asking for almost $2,000.
Thoughts on the Pentagon’s actions?
Pentagon Burns Copies of OPeration Dark Heart Before Banned Books Week [US Financial Post]
It’s the 27th Annual Banned Books Week, and librarians, teachers and book lovers throughout the country are commemorating with various activities and protests against censorship. The ALA is one of several sponsors of the week, which the organization sees as an opportunity to “educate librarians and the general public about the importance of intellectual freedom,” says Jim Rettig, ALA president. “Individuals must have the freedom to choose what materials are suitable for themselves and their families.”
According to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), “book banning is alive and well”, with 460 complaints filed in 2009 attempting to have a book removed from a library or classroom. The majority of challenges to books, 71%, come from schools, with parents lodging 61% of these complaints. (A challenge is defined as “a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”) The proliferation of the Young Adult genre in recent years may correlate to the large number of challenges, as these novels often tackle subject matter that some may deem ‘inappropriate’.
The traditional mode of protest during Banned Books Week is to read a banned book, and there are several creative variations scheduled to take place this year. Many bookstores, libraries and schools will have special displays dedicated to banned books, readings of those books, and some will host the authors of censored works. In Arizona, volunteers at the Yuma County Library will each read from a banned book for thirty minutes while sitting in makeshift jail cells. At a Catholic high school in California, students will wrap banned titles in caution tape and encourage other students to review them. The American Booksellers’ Foundation for Free Expression has also compiled a list of ways for individuals to commemorate the week, in case there are no scheduled events or readings taking place near you.
The Top Ten Banned/Challenged Books of the Past Decade:
1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
An interesting blog post on the subject of censorship and social media: Twitter: Banned Books Best Friend [NY Times]
A brief blog post about recent acquisitions by the Wolfsonian-FIU Rare Books and Special Collections Library, can be read here. Some interesting photos of WWII propaganda leaflets, especially in light of our recent NCBCC winning bibliography, submitted by Andrew Fink and entitled An Interdisciplinary Survey of 20th Century Propaganda.
To read more about and see additional examples of Psychological Warfare, visit Retired Major Edward Rouse’s website. Major Rouse had a 20 year career in the US Military as a specialist in Psychological Operations, and participated in the psychological campaign in the Gulf War.
An interesting article that focuses on another hat author Graham Greene wore- that of an avid collector of rare books. Read the article here.
A rare copy of the United State’s first census will be offered in Bonhams Rare Books and Fine Manuscripts Auction on October 4th. The census was conducted under the direction of Thomas Jefferson, who at the time was serving as Secretary of State under Washington, and was therefore also the nominal director of the census (a title held by the Secretary of State for the first five censuses). This particular copy is one of the few signed by Jefferson himself. It is annotated with numerous calculations, and believed to originally have been Gideon Granger’s personal copy; Granger was Postmaster General during Jefferson’s time in office (1801-1814). This rare copy’s value is estimated between $80,000 and $120,000.
The sale also includes historical photographs, maps, and atlases, among them a 1816 John Melish’s Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions; a signed 1922 first edition, first printing of The Beautiful and Damned; an original 4-panel strip of Peanuts; and a single typed page report of a blood test taken by Gandhi ten days prior to his assassination (which indicated a high white blood cell count).
The auction will be simulcast to New York.
Rare 1790 Census Up For Auction [Luxist.com]
History:Directors 1790-1810 [US Census Bureau]
Seven Stories children’s book museum, based in Newcastle, England, has recently acquired a number of rare original typescripts by celebrated English author Enid Blyton. The manuscripts were put up for auction two weeks ago as part of the estate of Blyton’s late daughter, Gillian Baverstock.
Although Blyton had an extensive bibliography and a career that spanned over five decades, few of her original manuscripts have survived, a fact Seven Stories was aware of and jumped at the chance to preserve them. The museum obtained nine original typescripts of Blyton’s best known novels, including three from her Famous Five series and an undated, unpublished Famous Five Adventure A Play for Older Children in Three Acts. Five Have Plenty of Fun, published in 1954, is accompanied by a handwritten note from Blyton which reads, “I do not write my books by hand but type them straight out of my head.” Seven Stories also acquired Last Term at Malory Towers, believed to be the only existing typescript for the Malory Towers series, complete with corrections and a signed forward.
Along with these manuscripts, the museum also purchased several other books and stories by Blyton, typescripts for Look Out Secret Seven, a likely unpublished typescript for Mr. Tumpy’s Caravan, and a box of the family’s personal books. The purchase was made possible through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, and two private donations (one of them from Blyton’s granddaughter, Sophie Smallwood).
Seven Stories’ chief executive Katie Edwards commented, “This archive was in danger of being lost to the nation and we are thrilled to be able to bring it to Seven Stories where it will play an important part in telling the story of modern children’s literature.” The museum is now the largest public collector of Blyton material, and is planning an exhibit.
Rare Enid Blyton manuscripts acquired by Seven Stories museum [guardian.co.uk]
Today in Marin County, an alleged book thief is scheduled to be arraigned on charges of Grand Theft, after he stole a rare book by ingesting it (yes- he ate it).
Three weeks ago, the Heldfond Book Gallery contacted authorities to report the theft of a first edition of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. The staff was able to give a detailed description of the suspected culprit, who was behaving in a strange manner and had handled the book shortly before it disappeared. Police apprehended the suspect at the Eco Green Zen Calm cafe, where he was curled up in a booth and complaining of severe stomach cramps. The suspect was take to Marin County Hospital, where an x-ray was administered in an attempt to find the root of his pain. This is what they found:ER physician Dr. Leo McCoy said of the discovery, “We’ve seen many different and weird things wind up in people’s stomachs over the years, but this was a real shocker.” Becky Thatcher, Heldfond Book Gallery Manager, called the suspect, who has been identified as John W. Booth, an unemployed actor form San Francisco, “the Houdini of book thieves.”
UPDATE: Well, looks like I have been fooled (and in front of all the members before we’ve even met!). I spoke with Erik and apparently this story is only the creative work of an employee at Heldfond Book Gallery. Logic failed me, even while writing and wondering how anyone could possibly manage to swallow a book. Does anyone else have any strange but true stories of theft?