Stephen King is one of the most recognizable names in literature. His horror-filled library of tales like Carrie and The Shining are classics on bookshelves and on the silver screen. His intense dramas exploring the human condition, such as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, are likewise celebrated.
But there’s another accolade that he is, well, king of: he’s the most censored and banned author in American literary history.
A status that was emphasized this week because Rocklin High School, in Sacramento, California, is considering banning a book from its library due to a graphic scene.
“Different Seasons” is a collection of four Stephen King stories including “Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand by Me;” but the page and a half graphic scene in “Apt Pupil” is what could get the entire book banned.
“Basically they’re judging an entire anthology on one story,” said Amanda Wong, a senior at Rocklin High.
Wong is outraged that her high school pulled the book after a parent complained. A school committee decided that a rape scene in “Apt Pupil” was too much for students.
“I thought it was completely wrong of them to do that. I was really upset,” she said.
“Although I understand this parent’s concerns- I wouldn’t want my little brother reading this- I don’t believe it’s the school’s right to take an entire book out of library just over that.”
Wong was also on that committee and was the only one opposed to pulling the book. She was outnumbered, but it didn’t stop her from being outspoken, especially because she’s the only one who read the entire thing.
She decided to take her concerns to the school board meeting, where she made a plea to board members to take another look.
“The instant you do such an action, it opens a big door up. What will we be banning next?” said Wong.
“It should be up to parents and students to make this decision on whether they want to read it, not the district or school.”
The book is back on shelves while a district committee looks at a possible ban.
“Whether it gets banned or not, I’m happy people know,” said Wong.
The first meeting is Tuesday, and they have 30 days to make a decision.
CBS13 in Sacramento reached out to Stephen King about the ban.
“We stand with Amanda Wong on the issue and admire her principled and passionate plea. We hope she and those who share her views are not disappointed,” King’s agent said.
“Different Seasons” had been previously removed from the West Lyon Community Library in Larchwood, Iowa in 1987 because “it does not meet the standards of the community.”
It has also been removed from the Washington Middle School library in Meriden, Connecticut (1989) after a parental complaint; and challenged at the Eagan High School in Burnsville, Minnesota in 1992.
It was challenged at the Cabell County Public Library in 2002 for references to, respectively, oral sex and prison rape scenes in “Rita Hayworth” and “Shawshank Redemption.”
Some of his other popular titles that have been challenged or banned include “It” which was challenged at a Lincoln, Nebraska school in 1987; and placed on restricted reading at the Franklinville, New York Central High School library in 1992.
“The Stand” was restricted at the Whitford Intermediate School in Beaverton, Oregon in 1989 because of “sexual language, casual sex, and violence.”
A brief rundown of his other titles that have been challenged and/or banned are:
Cujo , Carrie, Christine, The Bachman Books, The Eyes of the Dragon, Firestarter, Four Past Midnight, Gerald’s Game, Night Shift, Pet Semetary, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Skeleton Crew, The Talisman, Thinner, The Drawing of the Three
A middle school in Florida had targeted two of his books, The Dead Zone and Tommyknockers in 1992.
Media outlets were seeking a comment from King at the time. His typical response was to ignore them and toss the phone messages, but on second thought he decided that “the author could not be reached for comment” shtick seemed a bit lame.
He wrote a guest column in the Bangor Daily News, first addressing the kids- his readers. He urged them to not argue with authority and not to waste their time in protest. Instead, he encouraged them to “hustle down to your library” for a copy; and informing them that John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, and Mark Twain all faced censorship.
He then addressed their parents by challenging their parenting skills and hinting that these book burners knew better how to raise their children. He asked them to consider the matter carefully by reminding them that these censors “don’t believe in democracy, but rather in a kind of
intellectual autocracy.” He assured them that if they didn’t pay attention and didn’t defend their children’s rights to read, that there would not be much left. King indicates that if only the fairy tale happy ending stories are left for their children to read, their minds will not be sharpened for the future decisions they will be faced with.
King also addressed the citizens of the towns banning books, that book-banning is censorship, and implying that book-burners are people who feel that the entire community should think and feel as they do.
King does not believe all books should be made available to young minds, saying that schools are “…a managed marketplace,” and books like “Fanny Hill’ or “American Psycho,” probably should not be read by young people, at least not from a school library.
King was very clear on his personal position of censorship. He doesn’t want to spend his time defending his books in every state, in every school district- he wants to write stories for people to read.
“Do I believe a defense should be mounted? Yes. If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is “right” and what is “best” should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. No book, record, or film should be banned without a full airing of the issues. As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.”
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html