Fighting book censorship

Freedom to Read Week, Shakespeare, poetry and more

What do The Golden Compass, Rolling Stone, Brer Rabbit and Tintin have in common? In the past year, they’ve all been challenged by Canadian public library patrons who claim they contain inappropriate content.

Every year, across the country, volunteers organize events that celebrate our unrestricted access to information and education. “The purpose of Freedom to Read Week is to remind Canadians of their freedom to read, and also to make them aware of certain threats to that freedom,” says Franklin Carter, editor and researcher with the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee.

The threat he refers to, of course, is censorship. Every year, libraries and schools receive complaints about material that a patron deems controversial or offensive, which occasionally results in a major public brouhaha like the recent fuss over Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, but often doesn’t hit the media. “The overwhelming majority of book and magazine challenges are not reported,” says Carter. “The people who want to censor books don’t want to attract attention. When you attract attention, you attract controversy, and the censors usually lose.”

Celebrate the remainder of the week by attending the Freedom to Read Week 24-Hour Marathon. In 20-minute cycles, over a 24-hour period, a plethora of literature-lovers will read from works that have been challenged or banned. The marathon starts at McNally Robinson (120 8 Ave. S.W.) on February 29 at 7 p.m. and runs right through to the following evening.

Flex your poetic muscles and be rewarded at the Calgary Poetry Slam. Hosted by Shone Abet and Kirk Ramdath, this competition challenges wordsmiths to whip out their best three-minute poems for prize money and a shot at joining the 2008 Calgary Slam Team. The evening starts with an open mic, but if you want to slam, arrive early, because those spots go fast. The action hits the Auburn Saloon (115-163 9 Ave. S.E.) on February 28, 8 p.m., $5 at the door.

It’s a good week for Stephen Massicote. First up, fresh from off-Broadway, is a staged reading of his new play, The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion. The reading, which follows the friendship of First World War vets T.E. Lawrence (“of Arabia”) and poet Robert Graves, is accompanied by a screening of, appropriately enough, Lawrence of Arabia. The back-to-back features are free with a donation to the food bank, and take place at the Plaza Theatre (1133 Kensington Rd. N.W.) on March 1, 7:30 p.m. Then, Alberta Theatre Projects’ playRites Festival presents a reading of Massicote’s other new play, The Clockmaker. Catch a sneak peek at a Calgary playwright’s newest script at the Big Secret Theatre (225 8 Ave. S.E.) on March 2, 4:30 p.m.

Shake away those Monday blues with a dose of the Bard. Monday Night Shakespeare keeps on rollin’, as Dr. Jim Black presents “Pericles, Prince of Tyre: Dreaming Such a Thing.” The lecture takes place at the Boris Roubakine Recital Hall (Craigie Hall, University of Calgary) on March 3, 7:30 pm.

It’s English Department Month at the University of Calgary. Kicking things off, Governor General’s Award-winning translator Robert Majzels presents “Mere Debris — bris de mer: Translating Nicole Brossard” in Social Sciences 1339 (U of C) on March 4, 4 p.m.

The Aboriginal Writer’s Circle is a friendly venue for local aboriginal writers to share their work. It’s hosted by editors and contributors from New Tribe magazine. Join the Circle at McNally Robinson on March 6, 5:30 p.m.

Join the friendly folk at the flywheel reading series, with another of their monthly literary celebrations. This time, hosts Emily Elder, Bronwyn Haslam and Natalie Zina Walschots welcome a new batch of writers, including Alyson Fortowsky and Amin Karim to McNally Robinson on March 6, 7 p.m.

Christopher Nowlin is many things: criminal lawyer, painter and author. His latest book, To See the Sky, draws a satirical portrait of Vancouver in the weeks leading up to the 2010 Olympics, wherein the disappearance of two children is mysteriously linked to a Grimm fairy tale. Join him at Pages Books (1135 Kensington Rd. N.W.) on March 6, 7:30 p.m.

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