Last week a school board in New Mexico received a complaint from a parent about a scene in the book which while racy is pretty tame in context let alone when compared to some other contemporary works (ever read The Color Purple?).
However it’s not the validity of the claim that bothers me.
What bothers me is the fact that one complaint, from one parent, about a book that’s been part of the curriculum since 2004 caused that book to be removed not only from the curriculum but from the school’s library. “Removed for review”. It’s also important to note that the teacher was never contacted by the parent. Even though there is a waiver system in place for just this type of eventuality.
Really? So we couldn’t waive that student’s requirement of that book? Substitute another title? No pull it from the school.
The complaint? The parent took exception to a passage on p. 86 (of the paperback edition) of the book, here’s the passage:
A late-night couple, who had been slowly walking along the Embankment toward them, holding hands, sat down in the middle of the bench, between Richard and Anaesthesia, and commenced to kiss each other, passionately. “Excuse me,” said Richard to them. The man had his hand inside the woman’s sweater and was moving it around enthusiastically, a lone traveler discovering an unexplored continent. “I want my life back,” Richard told the couple.
“I love you,” said the man to the woman.
“But your wife–” she said, licking the side of his face.
“Fuck her,” said the man.
“Don’ wanna fuck her,” said the woman, and she giggled, drunkenly. “Wanna fuck you….” She put a hand on his crotch and giggled some more.
Did I mention that it’s a 400 page novel? What’s this a page? Maybe? Is it risqué? Sure. Are these words or expressions that a High School student wouldn’t know or have heard? No.
To give context to the above passage the scene plays out around our main character (Richard Mayhew) who has become one of society’s “unseen”. Its whole purpose is to show how invisible he is to everyone around him. I remember the power that scene had the first time I read it. You truly feel Richard’s loneliness, his isolation. Foul language aside it’s a great part of a great novel.
Well I’m sure you have an opinion so sound off people! Agree with me or not I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re of the opinion that this is something you would like to speak out against follow the link in Neil’s quoted tweet below.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) October 18, 2013
“NEIL GAIMAN’S NEVERWHERE TP Written by Mike Carey Art and cover by Glenn Fabry The comics adaptation of New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed novel is now available complete in one 224-page trade paperback! Collecting all nine issues of the Vertigo maxiseries, this volume follows the adventures of an ordinary Londoner who stops to help an enigmatic girl and is drawn into a battle to save the strange underworld kingdom of London Below from destruction.”