Books

Book News: North Carolina County Reverses 'Invisible Man' Ban

Ralph Ellison testified at a Senate Subcommittee hearing in 1966 on the racial problems in big cities. i i

hide captionRalph Ellison testified at a Senate Subcommittee hearing in 1966 on the racial problems in big cities.

AP
Ralph Ellison testified at a Senate Subcommittee hearing in 1966 on the racial problems in big cities.

Ralph Ellison testified at a Senate Subcommittee hearing in 1966 on the racial problems in big cities.

AP

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • On Wednesday evening, the Randolph County school board in North Carolina voted 6 to 1 to retract its ban on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man at school libraries. In the days after the board took the classic novel about race and identity off library shelves in response to a parent complaint, the decision has drawn fierce criticism and national scrutiny. Vintage, the book's publisher, donated copies to a nearby bookstore to be given away for free to students, and waiting lists for the book grew at local libraries and bookstores. Board member Gary Cook told the Los Angeles Times, "We may have been hammered on this and we may have made a mistake, but at least we're big enough to admit it."
  • David Gilmour, a Canadian professor currently longlisted for Canada's most important literary prize, drew criticism Wednesday for an interview with Random House's Hazlitt blog in which he said, "I'm not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. ... [W]hen I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. ... What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth." Following a backlash on Twitter and elsewhere, Gilmour apologized, saying, "I was having a conversation, in French, with a colleague while this young woman was doing this interview. So these were very much tossed-off remarks."
  • Meanwhile, at The Nation, the excellent Roxane Gay (who was recently featured on NPR's Code Switch blog) considers the category of the "black woman writer": "Women writers and writers of color don't really have the luxury of being known simply as writers. There's always a qualification."
  • George Saunders spoke to the Story Prize's blog about his worst-ever story idea: "I wrote an unreadable 700-page book based loosely (not loosely enough, apparently) on a friend's wedding in Mexico, which was called 'La Boda de Eduardo,' which I think translates as 'Ed's Wedding.' So that would probably be it. The wit of the title says it all."

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