Today in books and publishing: New Jersey book columnist discovers the Internet; lesbian pulp novelist Tereska Torrès dies; Schwarzenegger, Olympia Snowe, and a Scientology insider tell all.
Here we are, in 2012, and people are still trying to ban books. It's almost Banned Books Week, so we should remind ourselves that book banning isn't yet a relic from earlier, unenlightened times; it still happens in many parts of the country. In Pennsylvania's East Penn School District, a group of parents are targeting a summer reading program that asks high school students to read books like Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep and Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. They complained that the books are "pornographic" and "reprehensible trash" to school directors, who voted not to vote on whether to remove the books from the reading list. "Before taking board action we should have an investigation, a finding of facts and a committee report providing us with a rational basis for taking any action," school board president Charles Ballard hedged. Emmaus High seniors Neil Ren and Isaiah Zukowski are circulating a petition among students to keep the books on the reading list. "We don't need to be sheltered," Ren said, speaking truth to parental power. "It's counterproductive to cover up things that are prevalent in society." Zukwoski told the board, "It's an issue of intellectual freedom and we need to preserve that." Cue the applause. [The Morning Call]
Tig Notaro to release book of essays. When comedian Tig Notaro revealed her breast cancer diagnosis in an impromptu onstage monologue, the audience expressed an outpouring of support. She asked if she should revert to her usual routine, but one member yelled, "No. Absolutely not. This is fucking incredible." HarperCollins is betting that many readers feel the same, and they gave Notaro a book deal for a collection of essays. The publisher's announcement reads, "In her debut collection, Tig writes about her early years in Mississippi and Texas; her first decade in Los Angeles; and this tumultuous past year, in which, among other things, her mother died and she was diagnosed with breast cancer: a diagnosis which she worked into a now legendary stand-up routine." HarperCollins imprint Ecco will release the book, tentatively slated for 2015. [GalleyCat]
Did you guys know old books are posted online for free? Anne Bendheim doesn't much care for this thing called the World Wide Web. The syndicated books editor of a New Jersey newspaper ring begins her latest column, "The Internet is, of course, useful from time to time, despite the fact that it’s also filled with dross and dreck, the flotsam of fatuous factoids..." She recently had a begrudging use for it while searching for an old, somewhat racist children's book, The Little Colonel in Arizona, because her dog ate her copy. "With a rare couple of extra bucks in the bank, I went on a search with Google as my guide," writes the intrepid technophobe. But then she realized she wouldn't need money at all! Since the book is old enough to be in the public domain, Project Gutenberg hosts it online for free. "What an awakening! ... And they’re all free. FREE! You don’t even have to have a dedicated e-reader, like a Kindle or Nook (this last is the most unfortunate name for an e-reader, by the way)." Isn't the Internet great? [Asbury Park Press]
Tereska Torrès dead at 92. Long before kinky erotica became mainstream, non-hetero sex in mass-market books had the ability to scandalize our whole nation. French writer Tereska Torrès' novel Women's Barracks became a subject of great controversy in '50s America for its frank depictions of lesbian encounters between women in the Free French forces during World War II. The House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials condemned Torrès' book in 1952, guaranteeing it a place in the transgressive cannon and preceding a slew of salacious paperback imitations. In 2005, the Feminist Press rereleased it in their Femmes Fatales series. Torrès, who died on Thursday at the age of 92, had told The Independent that she never could tell what all the fuss was about. "There are five main characters," she said. "Only one and a half of them can be considered lesbian. I don’t see why it’s considered a lesbian classic." [The New York Times]
Scientology Leader's niece will write a tell-all. Scientology remains a secretive religion in many ways, but with The Master and Tom Cruise's alleged wife auditions in the news, interest in the Church may be at an all-time high. Jenna Miscavige Hill picked a great time to announce her tell-all memoir, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, to be published by HarperCollins imprint William Morrow. Hill is the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige, and has been critical of the Church since leaving very publicly in 2005. [The Washington Post]
Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, again. Maria Shriver hasn't read Arnold Schwarzenegger's upcoming memoir, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. The book will touch on the affair Schwarzenegger had with his housekeeper, who hushed up the fact that they had a son. The former California governor says, "She knows that it's about my whole life and that I would not write a book and kind of leave out that part and make people feel like, 'Well, wait a minute. Are we just getting a book about his success stories and not talk about his failures?'" [NBC News]
Moderate Republican Olympia Snowe is sick of partisan politics. The Maine Senator has said she's leaving Congress because of its increasingly entrenched partisanship. As a parting shot, she plans to write a "memoir and call to action" about her experiences for Weinstein Books. The publishing house's owner Harvey Weinstein may be a prominent Democratic supporter, but he says, "This is a book that should be read by all Americans, whether liberal or conservative." [NPR]