Banning books about banned books

My initial reaction to this story was that it had to be a hoax:

Alton Verm filed a “Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials” Thursday with the district regarding “Fahrenheit 451,” written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1953. He wants the district to remove the book from the curriculum.

“It’s just all kinds of filth,” said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read “Fahrenheit 451.” “The words don’t need to be brought out in class. I want to get the book taken out of the class.”

He looked through the book and found the following things wrong with the book: discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, “dirty talk,” references to the Bible and using God’s name in vain. He said the book’s material goes against their religions beliefs. The Verms go to Grand Parkway Church in Porter.

“We went them to go after God,” said Glen Jalowy Jr., Grand Parkway Church youth minister. “We encourage them that what you put in your mind and heart is what comes out.”
Alton Verm said he doesn’t understand how the district can punish students for using bad language, yet require them to read a book with bad language as part of a class.
Diana Verm and another classmate decided to read an alternative book. They leave the classroom when the class reads or discusses “Fahrenheit 451,” she said. The two students were given “Ella Minnow Pea” by Mark Dunn because it shares common themes with “Fahrenheit 451,” said Chris Hines, CISD assistant superintendent for secondary education.

“Fahrenheit 451” is a science fiction piece that poses a warning to society about the preservation and passing on of knowledge as well as asks the question about whether the government should do the thinking for the people, Hines stated in an e-mail to The Courier. Other themes include conformity vs. individuality, freedom of speech and the consequences of losing it, the importance of remembering and understanding history and technology as help to humans and as hindrances to humans, Hines stated in the e-mail.

Let’s review. A man in Conroe, Texas wants to ban the book Farenheit 451, the singular work of literature about censorship, because he objects to its content. Incidentally, this comes during the 25th annual Banned Books Week, promoted by the American Library Association every year. Both Verm and Hines insist the timing is coincidental. I think I just went into irony overload.

I must say, the substitution of Ella Minnnow Pea for F451 by the CISD assistant superintendent is subversively clever. Assuming the story is true, Chris Hines is my hero. But if it truly is a hoax, then Hines has nothing on Verm himself for sheer genius. I live in Houston, so it wasn’t hard to track down Verm’s phone number, but I am hesitant to call and possibly infuriate the poor man – whose place in history is already assured – by asking if he’s serious.

At any rate, hoax or not, the ALA is probably going to send Verm a fruit basket for the PR gift he’s handed them. I mean, who normally cares about Banned Books Week? Students at Caney Creek high school are already mobilized to sign a petition and wear t-shirts today in support of F451, and as this story filters out to other outlets it’s going to refresh the debate that the book itself sought to provoke. The whole affair, whether contrived or genuine, seres to emphasize the universality and timelessness of Farenheit 451’s message. Guy Montag is freakin’ immortal. Ray Bradbury should be pleased.