Indianapolis writer’s ‘lock-in’ puts focus on censorship
INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis writer and editor Corey Michael Dalton is spending this week “locked up with Vonnegut” at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to call attention to continued efforts to ban books. His stunt is tied to the observation of Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read.
Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse-Five, a satirical novel about the World War II experiences and time-travel adventures of an American soldier named Billy Pilgrim, is among the most-challenged classics, according to the American Library Association.
Dalton, a member of the library’s advisory board, told The Indianapolis Star he was inspired to spend the week at the library by a Missouri school’s banning of the book last year.
Dalton is not alone during his weeklong vigil. A rotating cast of authors, activists and local dignitaries are dropping past the library each day to read excerpts from books that have been banned somewhere in the United States.
Indiana author Dan Wakefield, renowned for such novels as Going All the Way, about two Hoosiers who return home to Indiana after serving in the Korean War, made an appearance at the library on Sept. 30.
“I am here to really call attention to the strange crime of banning books in this country,” Wakefield said moments before stepping to the front of a small audience. “Some of the greatest books in American literature have been banned, including The Catcher in the Rye and even the young adult or children’s book A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. … It’s hard to imagine that still books like Slaughterhouse-Five are banned and people somehow think those books are dangerous, when in fact they are opening up minds and they’re really affirming the things this country stands for.”
Wakefield spoke about his friendship with Vonnegut and read a letter from the late author that was written to a North Dakota official at a school that banned and even burned Slaughterhouse-Five. Wakefield also read an excerpt from The Great Gatsby, which he described as among his favorite banned books.
The 80-year-old author’s presence brought a certain weight to this week’s events, said John Cimasko, another member of the library’s advisory board.
“He’s a very popular author,” Cimasko said of Wakefield. “His being here tonight is great. There are still books being banned at schools and libraries, and I think it’s important that we look at why these books are being banned and try to work toward getting them not banned anymore.”
Other accomplished authors will make appearances at the Vonnegut library throughout the week.
Dalton said it was eye-opening that, even after celebrating Banned Books Week for 30 years, the threat still remains. And, in fact, the targets are often the same works, such as Slaughterhouse-Five.
The Vonnegut classic also was among nine books banned at a New York school that led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1982 — the first year of the Banned Books Week observance — that said school boards could not pull books from library shelves “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”
“Like a lot of people, I think, I was caught off-guard that this was still an issue,” Dalton explained of the recent Missouri case. “So, if doing something ridiculous like living in a window for a week helps make people more aware, then it will be worth it.”
From his perch in the library’s front window, Dalton — via a laptop computer — will be doing his job this week as editor of children’s magazines. He’ll also be blogging about his experience and writing a story of his own that will be shared at week’s end — all of which can be watched on a live webcam feed.
More about the daily activities, as well as links to Dalton’s blog and the webcam feed, are at www.vonnegutlibrary.org.