John Grisham, you're banned! But not really.

All of us free-speech-lovin' Barrelhousers can breathe easier today: the Fargo, N.D. school board has decided not to ban John Grisham's A Time to Kill, despite petitions from a group of parents.

Of course this raises a few questions, like when did high schools start assigning John Grisham books, and what was so offensive about this one in particular (the parents claimed "violence," but I'm guessing maybe they just read the title and started having epileptic-like fits).

The parents, learning that their plea was denied, sound predictably pissy. "The hubris of this board is unbelievable," Pamela Sund Herschlip told the Associated Press. Which makes me wonder if Herschlip knows what the word "hubris" means. Perhaps if she'd read a few more ultra-bloody books -- both The Illiad and The Odyssey come to mind -- she'd be better able to use the word in a sentence.

I remember when I was in high school and a small but crazy group of parents wanted to ban "Young Goodman Brown," because it was about "people hanging around with the devil." Nothing came of it, of course, except that my family got a good laugh. One of the ring leaders -- an extremely religious woman who wouldn't let her daughter date or even leave the house much past dark (and yes, the daughter was pregnant before graduation, because that's how these things work) -- called my mom to enlist her help in getting "Young Goodman Brown" off our American Lit. syllabus. I remember my mom getting off the phone and looking perplexed. "Some crazy woman just called," she said. "I'm pretty sure she hasn't actually read 'Young Goodman Brown.' I mean, it's been years, but isn't that some kind of relgious allegory?"

I actually wish people would try to ban more books, because it's the best way to get kids interested in reading. "Young Goodman Brown" sort of sucks eggs, if you're a high school junior, but when someone wants to keep you from reading it, all of a sudden it's like the coolest story ever told. And all it took to get me to read American Psycho as a high school sophomore was my English teacher working herself into a frenzy about how violent and offensive it was. Right now, I bet copies of A Time to Kill are flying off the shelves, and even kids who don't have to read it for school are turning its pages.

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