01 April 2007

Delany Novel Includes "Scrotum"

_______ CITY, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Just as the controversy over the presence of a particular word in an award-winning children's book seems to have died down, Barnaby Kershaw, a math teacher at _____ City High School, has called on the librarians of the world to ban Samuel Delany's novel Hogg because, he says, it includes the word "scrotum".

"Children could encounter this book, read that word, and be scarred for life," Kershaw said. "It is our duty, indeed our moral responsibility as educators, to make sure that children are protected. If a child brought a copy of Hogg to you and said they didn't understand this word and wanted you to explain it, what would you say? Not everyone is ready for that sort of conversation."

Mr. Delany could not be reached for comment, but the renowned scholar K. Leslie Steiner told us by email: "It could, indeed, be possible that readers of Hogg will not know what the word 'scrotum' means, and this could certainly affect some of their understanding of the novel. There are quite a few other words in the book that I expect are familiar to them, though, even if they do not want to admit it, and so their ability to comprehend the majority of the novel will not be impaired. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't even remember if the word 'scrotum' is used anywhere in the book. Is it? Certainly, the signified of that particular signifier is present (or, rather, other signifiers for it are present), comprehended, and manipulated by a textual representation of a young boy, but frankly I don't ever remember the word 'scrotum' appearing in the text."

A representative of the American Library Association said the organization is not in favor of banning books, and that open discussion is an important American value, though of course individual libraries are free to determine the contents of their collections. Mr. Kershaw said the ALA has a long history of hating our freedoms, and that he intends to make his case to the American public once he has finished writing up a platform for his candidacy as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America.