Earlier this month Fuse #8 aired this issue:
There was an interesting discussion on the child_lit listserv that I think is worth mentioning here today. In the event that a children’s author is convicted of a heinous crime like owning child pornography or abusing children, should one keep that author’s books on the shelf?There was a parallel discussion at Maw Books.
This is not a hypothetical question when you learn that author William Mayne was once convicted of abusing kids and, more recently, in Oregon author K.P. Bath (of The Secret of Castle Cant) was sentenced to six years in prison for possessing child porn. It’s an interesting question.
Castle Cant sits on my own library shelves and as a book it has committed no crime, though its author has. What is the responsibility of the children’s librarian in such a case as this then? There are no easy answers.
I kept waiting for someone to point out that we’ve already run a version of this experiment. No public library or children’s-lit scholar would be without copies of at least two books by a man who not only possessed images that could almost certainly be prosecuted as child pornography under current US law, but produced them. That man is, of course, Lewis Carroll.
The material that Bath was convicted of possessing appears to be much more harmful to the young victims than anyone has alleged about the nude photographs Carroll made (and eventually destroyed). But the discussions don’t seem to have come close to that distinction, or the question of historical context. Most people expressed support for either “zero tolerance” or keeping “the work separate from the author.”
And Carroll’s work is merely the foundation of all modern English-language children’s literature. Once we’re done comparing and contrasting his novels to Mayne’s and Bath’s, we can move on to the fact that Plato’s Socratic dialogues, which provide much of the foundation of all modern thought, portray pederasty as one of the highest forms of human love. “Zero tolerance” is impossible.