Once upon a time, a young writer sent her aunt who was a teacher at a Catholic school a horror story she had written. The teacher loved it, and since it was so close to Halloween, decided to read it to her students at the end of the day. The students loved it, and went home to enthusiastically relay to their parents the awesome vampire story the teacher was reading. A few parents were not amused. And this is how your humble friend and narrator (with respects to Burgess) joined the ranks of authors of banned works, for her unpublished story “The Lady.”
That’s all true. And honestly, “The Lady” doesn’t deserve to be banned, and it doesn’t deserve to sit upon the shelf next to the likes of Of Mice and Men, Fahrenheit 541, and Animal Farm. There’s nothing political in it, and while it does contain some graphic bites, it’s quite conservative as far as vampire stories go. The titular character is a foreign female vampire who begins preying on a quasi-Portsmouth, Ohio town when her coffin is accidentally removed from its spot in the river, which kept her from rising (running water). She kills a few people, and then is staked through the heart by a doctor and a pastor.
The story challenges no one’s sensibilities, and takes very few risks. It’s by no means my best work, or even my best horror. So why all the fuss? I admit, when I heard what happened, although I was concerned for my aunt, I was pleased that my writing had prompted such a strong reaction. Ay, there’s the rub. Is Banned Books Week truly celebrating intellectual freedom, or just seeking attention?
In all honesty, the answer is probably both. And such an answer means that we who turn out at local libraries and independent bookstores, or even big retailers like Barnes and Noble should take the good with the bad. Here is a whole cornucopia of “dangerous” ideas, ripe for critiquing, analyzing, and, most importantly, learning. But keep in mind the sales-boostiness of the event… but not to the extent that you avoid the books anyhow.
I’d like to challenge the status-quo in my writing, and I feel I have in some of my unpublished works. But I don’t want another story banned for some silly reason like “it has the supernatural in it.” There’s no point in challenging that assertion. Yes, vampires are supernatural. So what? Talk to me when I write something truly offensive.