I find looking at the lists of banned books over the years interesting; you’ll find whatever the new and exciting title dealing with issues that often get challenged (sexuality, violence, language) but for the most part, you’ll find titles that pop up when they’re new and exciting and then just stay on the radar for years, some disappearing off the lists and then reappearing again.
These books however, feature some quite old challenges. I think my favorite is The Odyssey (Homer) which is the oldest banning on the list, dating back to the reign of Caligula for its expression of “Greek ideals of freedom.” The Odyssey doesn’t seem to get challenged these days, or at least not often enough to make it on to the ALA Banned and Challenged Books section, (which focuses on the frequent challenge items) but books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) still get challenged today, and I suspect the thing keeping some of the others on this list off the most frequently challenged books list is lack of exposure rather than acceptance of content.
Old news by now, but the newly discovered tablet fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh is super cool, with actual new content.
My time at work for the last several months has been taken up with a new collection at Cushing; the Don Kelly Collection of Gay Literature and Culture. It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect to be at a public university in Texas with a conservative reputation (#1 most conservative on the last Princeton Review, if I recall correctly) so we’re all extremely pleased that we were able to acquire it and I’m very proud of being able to have played a part.
Don Kelly started collecting gay literature after he retired from public service and the scope of what he collected spread and grew from a list of “lost gay books” to pulps to poetry to nearly complete runs of gay magazines put out by the activist groups of the 1950s and 60s. And more. He tracks everything on LibraryThing, which has been invaluable for both convincing the university that the collection is important and worth having and also for preparing for the exhibit featuring the collection before we’ve had time to catalog the contents.
I was asked to organize the exhibit, which was both exciting and terrifying, as I’ve never been in charge of an exhibit before. I have good help though, and as far as I (and the people who have done this before) can tell things are proceeding on schedule, so I seem to doing pretty well. I have a catalog to edit and I have a committee who has been helping with research and selection, I’m trying to get everything that I’m responsible for done early just in case there are delays anywhere, and to remember everything that needs to be done so I can make sure someone does it. It’s a great collection and I’ve been enjoying the research. (My having done a lot of research back when we decided that we were going to have the exhibit but before I was put in charge is largely why I was asked to lead the project.) It should be an excellent exhibit.
Ada Palmer recently made a post on Tor.com about weird manga and asked me to track down some information for her. She remembered a statistic (and had found an AP news story quoting it) that said manga accounts for almost 40% of all books and magazines published in Japan. So she wanted me to track down the source for this statistic and also to find similar statistics for other countries.
I tackled the second part first, and what I ended up doing was head to the page of business resources for the West Campus Library, which is where I worked before I got the job at Cushing. My primary job responsibilities there were course reserves but I also covered the reference desk and was therefore trained to use the business databases so I would know what resources were available and where I should go to answer questions.
My first thought was to check out the main database for marketing research reports to see what they had on publishing and marketing for books and magazines. No luck there. Next I checked out databases for industry and success! No articles about publishing in the U.S., but I did find reports for Finland and France that mentioned comics in Market Share Reporter, so my first instinct to find market research was correct even though the first database I tried didn’t have what I wanted. (Finland and France list comics as having 5% and 6.1% respectively.)
Next I tried to track down the 40% in Japan statistic. My industry database with Market Share Reporter didn’t have anything on Japan unfortunately. I was able to find the AP article, but the problem with citing the article is that since it’s AP I could find an author (Joseph Coleman) but AP articles are reprinted in many different papers at different times which makes it hard to pin down a date. So I kept looking (and by looking I mean rephrasing my search to get different results in Google) and eventually found the same statistic quoted in Japan Pop!: Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture edited by Timothy J. Craig. And what was even better is that it had a footnote. Or rather, an endnote, which meant that the source for the statistic wasn’t on the same page. Japan Pop! is not out of copyright which means that not all pages display. Lucky for me, the page that the endnotes seemed to be on was visible. And even luckier, we had the book the citation was from, so I could confirm that it was there (and the endnotes that I found were not a page of endnotes for a different chapter.) And the original citation was in a book by Fred Schodt, so my Google search results had verifiable and reliable information.