Amy Stern (bigbrotherreads) wrote,
Amy Stern

"It's not the ography that bothers me. It's the porn."

Today, I went to see Adam Rapp's new play. It was at the Vineyard theatre (pretty small- maybe 150 people tops?) and featured nine actors (Billy Crudup played Tobin Falmouth, the protagonist). It's the story of an author whose book gets banned in a small town in the heartland, and he has to go speak on behalf of his book. It was based on his experiences with Muhlenberg High School banning The Buffalo Tree, although hopefully too closely, because the lead character is pretty much a jerk.

I'm trying to figure out how I feel about the play. I'm really not sure.

It was good. It wasn't the best ever, but it was good. I felt slightly out of sorts, though, as a fan of YA watching this play. As someone who gets passionately invested in YA novels, who has said some of the things characters in the play say, I felt awkwardly judged, like the authors never intended for me to care THIS MUCH and I should step back. I also felt like, even though the teenagers on Team Falmouth are the most articulate and smart people in the play, they fall into the same trap that everyone who tries to ban books falls into: although they view it as an act of rebellion, the fact remains that they take the book as a message and a call to arms, and they accept it. The entire argument against banning YA lit- one of them, at least- is that teens are intelligent enough to not just blindly follow what they think the text says, and to see these characters do that- especially when it involves getting pregnant and leaving home to gain their independence- seems to undercut a lot of the goal of the play.

I think I want to write something comparing Metal Children to Chris Crutcher's The Sledding Hill, which are remarkably similar and yet different. They err on opposite sides. Chris Crutcher's authorial insert (named, er, Chris Crutcher) isn't fallible enough, while Tobin Falmouth is entirely too much so: he hasn't left his apartment in a month, he doesn't really remember the plot of his own book that he's avidly defending, and he impregnates a sixteen-year-old girl who asks him to because she wants to run away and start this matriarchal commune. Chris Crutcher is up against ignorant bigots. Tobin is too, but the people on his side aren't portrayed much better: one side is ignorant of anything but religion, and the other side takes on THe Metal Children as a different kind of religious doctrine, waxing poetic about every single line.

(Is this how I sound about On the Jellicoe Road? I mean, not that I'm going to stop. But do I?)

Basically, I liked "The Metal Children" and I liked The Sledding Hill, but I love John Green's I Am Not a Pornographer, which is respectful and honest and doesn't belittle any side of the dispute but passionately argues FOR the critical reading of a text.

The thing I came away from this play with, more than anything, was that I want to read The Metal Children. Not "The Metal Children" (as in the play, printed in book form, although I am intrigued by that), but The Metal Children, the book around which the play's controversy revolves. It's not a real book, obviously. (The play describes it as the "1999 Printz winner," which no one but me found funny.) I want the story about young women in a small town who get pregnant and are replaced with metal statues of themselves, engraved with GONE FOR NOW. I want this story full of cursing and rage, which apparently ends with a graphic abortion at the feet of the statues. I want this book with the symbolism where women's lack of reproductive choice literally turns them from people into objects. I want an Adam Rapp novel, featuring powerful female characters, which doesn't have any easy answers, for the characters or the readers.

But that's not happening. Luckily, I stopped at the Strand and got ARCs of Fat Vampire and Another Pan, so for now I will content myself with those.
Tags: banned books
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