There’s an interesting review of Adam Rapp’s new play in the current (May 31) “The New Yorker.” But I’m only writing about some information about AR in the piece, and not about the play. AR taught at Vermont (He’d written “The Buffalo Tree” and was a well-reviewed YA author) for one semester a decade or so ago. He was and is a smart guy, young and talented.
“The New Yorker” piece talks about his going to a town in Pennsylvania where “The Buffalo Tree” had been locked away in the principal’s office; he thought he’d maybe change some minds during a censorship debate but came away wondering “whether his novel was in fact appropriate” for young readers.
I’m sympathetic with that. “Stoner & Spaz” is often on a banned books list and I’ve talked to parents — some reasonable, some so hysterical they expect to hear my cloven hooves on the library floor as the smell of brimstone permeates the room.
Sometimes waving a P.E.N. award around and showing them glowing reviews calms people down, but other times I do that and talk calmly about Colleen’s astonishing influence on Ben and they listen and nod and say, “Okay but does she have to use the F-word so much? I hate for my kid to read that. And why do they have to have sex. They’re kids!”
Then we have a conversation like this: would one F-word be okay but are eight of them too much? How about four? And, I say, their sexual encounters are for Ben more about self-esteem than lust. They say, “Okay but do you have to write about how they take off their clothes? Can’t they just get it over with?”
Then, like poets everywhere, a weariness comes over me and I long to lie down by a brook and dream.