23 October 2008

Scared of What Little Fluffy Rabbits Might Do

The Oregonian of Portland is reporting on an individual's attempt to have The Book of Bunny Suicides removed from the local high-school library.

In fact, Taffey Anderson has already refused to return the book, threatened to burn it, and threatened to steal replacement copies as well.

The Oregonian reports:

Two weeks after students at the school discussed the First Amendment as part of Banned Book Week, Principal Julie Knoedler said Anderson's challenge is timely if not frustrating.

"I understand her feeling very strongly about her rights, values and responsibility as a parent," Knoedler said. "But I'm disappointed that she is forcing us to buy another copy before we can review the book."

The 2003 book by British author Andy Riley is a collection of black-comedy cartoons showing adorable white rabbits trying to end their lives through a variety of methods. . . .

Anderson could not be reached for comment Monday. But her short and pointed answers to questions on the Central Linn Schools' "Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials" forms left no doubt about her disgust with the suicidal bunnies, although she was short on specifics.

For example, the paperwork asks petitioners to list what they believe "might be the result of using" the offending material. Anderson's answer: "All different kinds of things."
I'm not sure Anderson would be pleased to know she has kindred spirits in China, according to this article from the Times of India. Shanghai has apparently seen a spate of adolescent suicides. Experts noted several factors in those deaths, such as academic pressure and family tensions--not to mention biological depression. There's no evidence that the young people had ever even seen Bunny Suicides. But the Bookuu Book City store decided to stop selling Riley's book (and the inevitable Chinese rip-off of it).

The store might simply have said its staff thought the books were in poor taste, under the circumstances. But instead, a spokesperson claimed, "We took the 'Bunny Suicides' cartoon books off our shelves because we're worried that children might try to imitate some of those ways of killing themselves." By, um, fighting Darth Vader. Or using the Star Trek teleporter improperly. Or breaking the shark tank at the aquarium. Or going to war.

As those links show, anyone who wants to sample Bunny Suicides can find scans all over the 'net. And we've managed to survive Bond's 101 Uses for a Dead Cat (1981), Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963), and Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children (1907), to name some earlier books in the same mode.

A couple of corrections: the Indian newspaper misidentifies cartoonist Andy Riley as an American, rather than British. (Look at the electric plugs on the cover above.) The Oregon newspaper identifies The Book of Bunny Suicides as a "graphic novel," but it's mostly a collection of single-panel cartoons.

ADDENDUM: After this was written, the Oregonian reported that Anderson has regretted threatening to keep and burn the book. The suicidal bunny hiding inside that copy also voiced regret.

FURTHER ADDENDUM: On 12 Jan 2009, after long debate, the school board in Halsey, Oregon, decided to keep The Book of Bunny Suicides at the high-school library.

1 comment:

david elzey said...

From Portland to Portland folks are checking out books they object to and refusing to return them. What I want to know is why Homeland Security isn't after these home-grown domestic terrorists who clearly don;t understand the Constitution or what it means to live in a democratic republic.

Who raised these people anyway, Communists?