Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pat Conroy Takes on the Idiots Who Want to Ban His Books

Pat Conroy has lost patience with those self-appointed censors in West Virginia who want to keep his "obscene and offensive" novels out of the state's high schools. According to the Guardian Unlimited website, Conroy is starting to speak out a bit about what is happening there.

Graphic depictions of violence, suicide and sexual assault in two Pat Conroy books are at the heart of a First Amendment debate, pitting offended parents against high school students who object to being told what they can't read.

Even Conroy has interjected himself into the debate. In an e-mail to a student, Conroy slams those who would ban his works as ``idiots.''
In a move that appeased neither side, the board decided Monday to explore using advisory labels on books that show content for violence, language, sexual content or adult situations.
Parents Ken and Leona Tyree found certain scenes in ``The Prince of Tides'' ``obscene and offensive.'' Leona Tyree said she was unable to finish the book. Their son has since left Shamblin's Advanced Placement literature class.

Another parent, Karen Frazier, complained about violence in ``Beach Music,'' and told school board members last month she wants guidelines for books used in public schools.

``If a teacher was on a computer and sending this filth to underage students, they'd probably be arrested,'' Frazier said at last month's meeting.
Because the two books were temporarily banned ``every kid in that county will read them, every single one of them. Because book banners are invariably idiots,'' Conroy wrote in the letter published Oct. 24 in The Charleston Gazette. ``They don't know how the world works - but writers and English teachers do.''

Conroy referred to the books as ``two of my darlings, which I would place before the altar of God and say, 'Lord, this is how I found the world you made.'''
Pat Conroy has long been one of my favorite authors. I remember well, the year that Prince of Tides hit the bookstores in paperback because I bought a copy for each of the 15 people who worked in my accounting department as Christmas gifts. I loved the honesty and frankness with which Conroy told that story because of the way that he uses his personal life as the basis for much of his fiction.

I really like the idea of putting warning labels on the covers of books that contain "violence, language, sexual content or adult situations," too. I only wish we had had that in my own high school library because it would have saved me so much time in my search for that type of book. Those labels are going to be perfect pointers to the very books that Pat Conroy's "idiots" are so concerned about. You have to love it.


  1. I can only hope that those parents do not allow their children to watch the news which is more violent and offensive than anything in a book! Pat Conroy's books are incredible and once read, remain with the reader forever. I love the idea of the labels, would have saved us all some time!


  2. I totally agree with you, Jennifer. I can't imagine what these kids will be exposed to in a Pat Conroy novel (other than great writing) that they are not exposed to every day every direction in which they turn. Over-protecting young people has some bad side effects.