by Kimberly Yarnall
Author of Laffs with Two Fs (inspired by Captain Underpants)
When I was first trying to write for the monologue festival about banning books, I took pause. I mean, come on. How many people in our audience are going to jump up and yell, "Yes! I believe in banning books! Where's my matchbook?" Not that it's a bad idea to have an evening celebrating freedom, where we are reminded of the very great, if flawed, country we live in. I'm often surprised how easy it is to take for granted our amazing institutions – from our judicial system to our library system. Yes, they screw up sometimes. But all too often our idealism prevents us from seeing that many times the reason our systems screw up is the very reason they are great: democracy. Sometimes it's with you, sometimes it's not, but it's always within the people's power to comment upon and change.
As a writer, I like entertaining people. I admit it. I want people to enjoy, perhaps even giggle, at the things I write. But I also like challenging people, if only a tiny bit. A quiet point in the subtext that might remind an audience member that they have a dusty old view or deep-seated conviction they might blush before admitting to a roomful of sophisticated peers. So how do I write a monologue about banning books that could possibly surprise people? And then I looked in the proverbial mirror and asked, "Well, what's something that embarrasses you? You high-minded, highly educated, sophisticated writer/reader person? What would challenge you?"
And I realized something: Yeah, yeah, I'm all for freedom to read and open information, blahdy blah, when I'm righteously haranguing ignorant people for banning Huckleberry Finn or Slaughter House Five. But what about all that crap out there on library shelves? I said it. CRAP. And then I realized that I might not be the only person who, secretly, has thought exactly what Justice Potter Stewart famously stated in regards to pornography: "I know it when I see it." Because there is sometimes a fine, fine line between being a burner of books and being a purveyor of good taste.