Saturday, October 2, 2010

John Irving

Letters of Note ( recently posted this letter by
John Irving to a high school librarian who had successfully fought an
initiative to have Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire banned from the
school library:

John Irving
P.O. BOX 757

Pam Harland, Librarian
Plymouth Regional High School
86 Old Ward Bridge Rd.
Plymouth, NH 03264-1299

November 4, 2008

Dear Ms. Harland:

My wife and agent showed me your letter, and I commend your efforts to
keep "The Hotel New Hampshire" available to young readers at the
Plymouth Regional High School Library. Thank you! Thank you, too, for
contacting me; it's often the only way I hear about efforts to ban my
books. To my knowledge, only three of my novels have been successfully
banned—"The World According to Garp," "The Cider House Rules," and "A
Prayer for Owen Meany." (All for different reasons.) I recently spoke
at a school library in Massachusetts during Banned Books Week, and I
will speak this coming Sat., Nov. 8, at a public lecture for the
Nashville Public Library in Tennessee—once again on the subject of
banned books.

I enclose five other books of mine, signed to the Plymouth Regional
High School Library. I feel they are in good hands!

I know that you already know this, because you read my novels, but in
my stories there is often a young person at risk, or taken advantage
of; many of my stories are about how innocence fares in the adult
world. I take the side of young people, but I am also a realist; it is
especially offensive to me when an uptight adult suggests that my
stories are "inappropriate" for young readers. I imagine, when I
write, that I am writing for young readers—not for uptight adults.

I thank you for having the courage to stand up for a novel that is
utterly sympathetic to young people. As you know, the last so-called
Hotel New Hampshire (at the end of the novel) is, in reality, a
rape-crisis center, a place to counsel victims—most of whom are young.
I wonder if the staff member who found my novel offensive actually
read that far, or if the incest issue—or the sexual explicitness, of
the four-letter words in the dialogue—was sufficient to impede their
progress. (Real readers finish books, and then judge them; most people
who propose banning a book haven't finished it. In fact, no one who
actually banned Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" even read it.)

With my heartfelt best wishes,

(Signed, 'John Irving')