Recalling The Ban



I can't believe it's been a year since I took up residence at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. My week's stay in the window joined other events nationally as part of the annual Banned Books Week.

In 2012, my colleague Corey Michael Dalton established this wonderful stunt to draw attention to banned and threatened books affecting schools and communities nationwide. My experience taught me that it's one thing to merely support a cause, and it's quite another to stand up boldly in defense of it.

I've been asked whether I'd do this again, and I've replied, "It was a tremendous experience that I'm happy to do just once." And to that point, for the program to elicit maximum impact, it needs someone new each year doing something different. As writers in the window, Corey, by his own admission, was more introverted, and I was more gregarious, which attracted similar attention but with different approaches.

Even with that, I wish I would have seized the opportunity to perform more in the storefront space behind the plate-glass window. For this year's Banned Books Week (Sept. 21-26), the Vonnegut Library will remedy that. They've enlisted conceptual and performance artist Tim Youd to do time in the makeshift cell behind a wall of books.

During Tim Youd's stay at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library last year, he created the diptych shown as part of his Banned Books Week "exhibit." - TIM YOUD
  • Tim Youd
  • During Tim Youd's stay at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library last year, he created the diptych shown as part of his Banned Books Week "exhibit."

Last year, in the run-up to my incarceration, Youd sat in the Library in the replica of Vonnegut's Manhattan apartment workspace typing Breakfast of Champions on a single sheet of paper. Every time he reached the end of the sheet, he rolled the platen up to the start of that same sheet and continued typing on top of the previously typed page. His result after he had pecked out the last lines on the Smith Corona Coronamatic 2200 "Make me young, make me young, make me young!" was that single sheet stamped in an eerie black blotch with repeated keystrokes. During the process, he adds another page underneath, and the two become a diptych that he displays.

Youd is intent on producing works of 100 novels in this manner, always attempting to find the actual model typewriter that the author used to compose the work. He's done 23 so far, including the likes of Henry Miller, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway and Phillip K. Dick. Location is also important for Youd's creative process, and he tries to type in a location that's significant to the author. For instance, according to his website, "For 10 days in July 2013, Youd retyped Post Office while sitting in the bed of a rented pick-up truck in the parking lot of the same office where [Charles] Bukowski sorted mail for 12 years."

For Banned Books Week, Youd will type out Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, but this time, upon breathing the fresh air upon release from the library, he'll set fire to the pages. Seeing as how IUPUI hosts the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and given the theme of Bradbury's masterpiece, I can't think of a more appropriate statement.

I'm excited to visit my temporary home again, and more excited to see Youd there!

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