Robot 6

CBLDF, other organizations defend Alan Moore’s Neonomicon

In one of the dumbest library challenges ever, Carrie Gaske of Greenville County, South Carolina, earlier this month caused Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon to be pulled from the shelves of the Greenville County library system after her 14-year-old daughter checked the book out and Gaske discovered it contained adult material.

The horror graphic novel was shelved, appropriately, in the adult section. Minors over 13 can check out adult books with a parent’s permission, so Gaske skimmed through the book, saw nothing offensive, assumed it would be a children’s book anyway because it’s a comic, and allowed her daughter to check it out. It wasn’t until they got home, and the daughter asked the meaning of an unfamiliar word, that Gaske realized it actually was an adult graphic novel and flipped out. She has challenged the book, and the library has removed it from circulation so a committee can review it. In other words: The library classified the book appropriately as an adult book, Gaske chose to ignore that classification, and now she wants to put it off limits to everyone.

On Monday, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund teamed with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter to the Board of Trustees of the Greenville Public Library calling for the book’s return to the shelves. The letter points out that withdrawing the book, even temporarily, infringes the First Amendment rights of all the adults who use the library.

The book meets the criteria that form the basis for the library’s collection development policy. Removing it because of sexual content not only fails to consider the indisputable value of the book as a whole, but also ignores the library’s obligation to serve all readers, without regards to individual tastes and sensibilities. If graphic violent and sexual content were excluded from the library because some people object to it, the library would lose ancient and contemporary classics, from Aeschylus’ Oresteia to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

In an interesting twist, the NCAC post on the matter says that Gaske has refused to return her checked-out copy to the library. Civil disobedience — or maybe she just couldn’t put it down?

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17 Comments

Gaske apparently can’t get enough hot deep one action.

This is pretty pathetic, but not surprising because people just love to over react.
It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrible comic, but let people decide that themselves…

She probably burned the copy.

In one of the dumbest library challenges ever, Carrie Gaske of Greenville County, South Carolina, earlier this month caused Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon to be pulled from the shelves of the Greenville County library system after her 14-year-old daughter checked the book out and Gaske discovered it contained adult material.

The challenge isn’t dumb at all, and it’s pretty obnoxious the glib tone the blogosphere has taken to the issue. Virtually every post has been “Some backwards Southern hick got a book pulled from the adult section because surprise surprise it had adult content. Hey, first amendment, hardy har, God bless Amurrca.” While that’s all well and good posturing, if you read Neonomicon, it’s obvious that the book doesn’t belong on a “Teens+” shelf next to other comics with so-called adult content. Watchmen has adult content; Neonomicon has cultists gang raping the protagonist over the corpse of her partner.

I’m not saying the book should be burned (and neither is Gaske as far as I can tell), but the label “Teens+” isn’t fair warning. In all likelihood, the library didn’t know what it had on its shelves.

It wasn’t marked as a teen book, but an adult book. Thats why we’re laughing at her. She agreed to check it out for her daughter without realizing what parental approval really entails. She’s just a dumb lazy broad.

Also, a discussion of quality is not entirely irrelevant here. I think the consensus at the time of release was that Neonomicon was lesser Moore, and even of dubious literary merit. In the past, Moore has not hesitated to categorize some of his work as pornography, Lost Girls, for example, so it seems reasonable to discuss whether with Neonomicon, Moore was trying his hand at torture porn or monster porn. The question then becomes “Should libraries shelf pornography? Should they shelf it alongside classic literature?” If you believe the answer is “yes,” then fine, but if not, then the above shouldn’t be a clear cut issue for you.

In this article http://www2.wspa.com/news/2012/jun/06/mother-teen-checks-out-sexually-graphic-comic-book-ar-3930038/ , Gaske says, “I’m definitely going to have to review every book they read more from now on.”
Well, she should have been doing that in the first place, rather than holding the library responsible.

It wasn’t marked as a teen book, but an adult book. Thats why we’re laughing at her. She agreed to check it out for her daughter without realizing what parental approval really entails. She’s just a dumb lazy broad.

Those shelves are implicitly marked as teen-appropriate. From the article:

The library system’s executive director, Beverly James, says although the book was placed in the library’s adult section, teens with a “juvenile adult” library card are allowed to check out books in that section.

Also, while I can’t confirm anything about this particular library, I feel it’s very likely that any comic book that features an exposed breast or penis or copious use of the F-word automatically gets shelved in the adult section. This is why I say the fair labeling argument doesn’t hold water, because the degree of disturbing content in Neonomicon doesn’t compare to what you would find in 99% of the other books in the same section (I’m thinking something like Brubaker/Phillips Criminal would be a typical representative).

@Cass: If the anti-Gaske crowd’s argument can be summarized as “Hey, first amendment, hardy har, God bless Amurrca”, well, how does it feel to beat the “Think of the children!” drum?

As Mr. pants, the OP, and every linked article note, the book was shelved in the adult section; indeed, the OP claims that Gaske thumbed through the book herself. If you have claims to the contrary, feel free to provide a source for them.

The question of literary or artistic merit is relevant; it’s also easily answered. The book uses its violent and sexual content as analysis of the horror genre; it’s front-and-center with its thesis that Lovecraft’s fiction is oddly sexless and doesn’t really include women at all.

It doesn’t matter one whit if this is “lesser Moore”. The threshold for literary and artistic merit is, and must be, very low. Moore and Burrows have something to say, a story to tell, a point to make. They say it, tell it, and make it.

Quite effectively, I would argue. I didn’t care for Neonomicon — I have a strong stomach but I stopped reading after #2 — but I thought it was quite clear in the themes it chose to explore and the way it chose to explore them.

I don’t think it’s pornographic because I don’t think it’s intended to titillate or arouse. I think it’s quite clearly intended to disturb and disquiet.

“Dubious literary merit”? Well who the hell gets to decide THAT?

Comics — ALL comics — have been dismissed as lacking in literary merit for over a century now. The science fiction and fantasy genres have frequently faced criticisms that they lack literary merit. Popcorn novels, romance novels — and really, there are romance novels that fit the definition of “pornography” a lot more closely than Neonomicon does.

I’ll grant that’s essentially a slippery-slope argument. But when you’re talking about law, and particularly constitutional law, slippery slopes ARE important to consider.

“Also, a discussion of quality is not entirely irrelevant here. I think the consensus at the time of release was that Neonomicon was lesser Moore, and even of dubious literary merit.”

Neonomicon won a Bram Stoker Award, which brings with it a degree of “literary merit.”

That said, the rest of your comment strikes me as pretty silly. Moore was/is unapologetic about calling Lost Girls outright pornography, as opposed to “Victorian erotica,” which is how some people insisted on characterizing the book. So, yes, Lost Girls was pornography, according to the author’s own definition and intent. But that doesn’t make Neonomicon pornography any more than it makes Watchmen, with its blue wang and giant alien vagina, pornography.

@Thad: I don’t actually think Neonomicon is pornography. I was trying to play devil’s advocate a bit much with that comment. I do think if you read the final issues, you’ll find that it doesn’t pay off any of the themes you mention, and ends on a fairly schlocky note, but that’s neither here nor there. For my thoughts on the “adult” labeling, see my previous post.

“Those shelves are implicitly marked as teen-appropriate. From the article:

The library system’s executive director, Beverly James, says although the book was placed in the library’s adult section, teens with a “juvenile adult” library card are allowed to check out books in that section.”

@Cass:
I’m just wondering, do you consider R-rated movies to be “Child+”? Because a minor of any age are able to see R-rated movies with the accompaniment of a parent or guardian. Heck, I got to see Dina Meyer’s rockin tits and see people pulled in half by alien bugs by the time I was thirteen thanks to my dad accompanying me and my lil’ bro and watching it with us.

Heck, there are R-rated movies with rape scenes in them. But clearly, since parents are able to allow their kids to see that if they so choose, it should be rated “Teen+.”

My local library only classifies this as “graphic novel”. There is no adult section. I have no idea why this would be mixed in with “the last airbender: the promise”

The fact remains that the library acted appropriately in how it cataloged and shelved the book, and the mother didn’t do a good job of checking on a book from the adult shelves before letting her teen daughter borrow it. If she continues to refuse to return the book, the library should be charging her overdue fines, and if it’s not returned after whatever length of time the library’s rule states (many libraries have a 30-day threshold), she should be charged the cost of the book plus the maximum overdue fine. The onus of responsibility was on the parent, not on the library. I hope the board of trustees will uphold the library’s collection development policy in this matter.

Jake Earlewine

June 20, 2012 at 6:05 am

The woman is clearly at fault for giving her child a book from the Adult section.
It’s not the library’s fault that the woman is too ignorant to know what “Adult” means.
It’s not the library’s fault that the woman is too ignorant to know that graphic novels and comic books can be for adults as well as kids.
It’s not the library’s fault that the woman was too lazy to review the book before letting her kid read it.

This lady should enroll in One Million Moms if she’s not already a member, so she can get let her inner redneck out with other women who are prejudiced and ignorant.

@RK: Now see, I absolutely agree that THAT is a problem.

Not one that should be remedied by pulling the book, of course, but certainly one that should be remedied by having at least two separate comic book sections.

I don’t think Cass is beating on the “think of the children” drum. However, he or she makes a valid and salient point. People are immediately dismissing this woman’s complaint because she’s a dumb redneck. That’s offensive and totally dismantles any good work we could do in defending Neonomicon or any other comic book from overzealous parents. The fact remains, as has been asserted, that she thumbed through the book, noticed nothing and then allowed her child to read it. The comics’ quality is irrelevant to the discussion.

Of course, what Cass and other commentators are missing out on is that “adult” and “teen” are amazingly arbitrary. Cass says that Watchmen has adult content, but it’s somehow less adult than Neonomicon’s content. I’m not disputing that. I’m simply pointing to the utter ridiculousness of a rating system that arbitrarily puts partition based on the perceived amount of adult content. Geoff Johns’ comics feature no sex, but an abhorrent amount of sophomoric violence, and yet they are frequently listed as acceptable for teens or older children.

Part of this has to do with North America’s absolutely bizarre relationship with sex and nudity. This simply adds to the arbitrariness of the ratings system comics employ.

Perhaps we need a more sophisticated system to help moms avoid taking out adult material from the library, but unfortunately, I know of no better system.

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