Friday, February 23, 2007

And All The Little Saints

My mother-in-law has a phrase she uses in moments of utter exasperation,"Oh, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and all the little saints!" It's not said when she's in a real temper, but as a verbal accompaniment to a rolling-of-the-eyes. It is intended to elicit divine attention at the point of need for patience in dealing with the real idiocies of daily existence.

When I first heard of this controversy, I echoed the phrase and her heartfelt tone. Surely, surely an author may be allowed to use anatomically correct terms when writing a book without setting off alarms. Anyone in a classroom who can't talk his or her way around the use of such a term in a way that avoids embarrassment needs to practice their verbal skills. Having said that, I have to agree with the Annoyed Librarian, who suggests that the litmus test (at least for children's literature) might be whether it is a word you'd choose to use in polite conversation. How well can you define it if pressed? The only thing worse might be to imagine the helpful young second or third-grader in the classroom who offers to show the questioner exactly where that particular portion of the male anatomy appears in order to clarify. At the same time, the author claims the incident in the book was taken from real life. It's not like she sat at her computer wondering how best to shock the neighbors. The columnist at the Toronto Star has a good grasp of the realities of the situation. Forbes is pointing out that the controversy is fueling book sales.

One does wonder if we've lost a grip on reality. Neil Gaiman suggests that it's just a small group of librarians who have gone over to the dark side. Of course, his headline uses an anatomically correct term as well so you might not trust him either.

(My responsibilities for the conference begin tomorrow evening; I'll be four days, three nights at the Ritz Carlton. It's a posh setting, but meeting planners don't get to enjoy the full benefits. For the record, there are special places in Perdition for speakers who cancel at 4:45 pm on a Friday afternoon when they are supposed to speak on the following Monday. Remember that bit I shared about people who are like Slinkies?

Back in four days.)