Another Year, Another Season, Another Banned Book Week

So the Yankees keep the streak alive with their 13th consecutive playoff berth (12 under Joe Torre, one before that under Buck Showalter -- remember him?). I have to admit that when George Steinbrenner hired Torre back then, I groaned loudly. Yeah, he had done a creditable job with the Braves, but his stints with the Mets and Cards had been fairly dire (those late '70s Mets teams under Joe Frazier and Torre were agonizing to watch), and except for his first year in Atlanta he had never won anything as a manager.

Okay. I was wrong. I happily admit it. As the Yankee manager, Torre has a winning percentage in the neighborhood of .605. You may say, well, that's Steinbrenner's checkbook talking. But you have to remember that until this year Steinbrenner's checkbook talking came attached to Steinbrenner talking. At any rate, he did a remarkable job in turning this season around and I have to say I like the Yankees' chances in postseason play.

Of course, in a fair universe -- were such a thing to exist -- the WS this year would feature the Cleveland Indians (no title since 1948) and the Chicago Cubs (not since 1908). But I don't expect that to happen. I've been out of the sportswriting business for over a decade (although there's a good chance I may be returning to it for at least a couple of books -- long story for another time), so I don't feel obligated to make public predictions. Or as Ben Johnson memorably says in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, "My mama didn't raise me to be makin' guesses in front of no Yankee captains." Of course, he means John Wayne, not Derek Jeter.

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Speaking of a fair universe, were such a thing to exist (as I said before), there would be no need for the annual ritual of Banned Book Week, organized by the American Library Association. But since we live in this universe and nobody in their right mind would call it fair, we have to deal with censors, both professional and self-appointed. As a writer and as someone who earns his living as a cultural critic, I feel a particularly close affinity with this cause. To the best of my knowledge, none of my three books has been banned anywhere, nor are they likely to be, given my comparative insignificance in the larger scheme of things. (Besides, who would want to ban a book on the worst teams in baseball history, other than the players commemorated therein?) But a lot of my favorite books and authors, not to mention movies and music, have been banned, expurgated, censored and burned over the past several centuries. As Heinrich Heine correctly observed, "Those who begin by burning books, end by burning people." Just ask any German Jew of a certain age.

You can find information about Banned Book Week here. I urge you to find out more and to act accordingly.

I'll get to the Film Festival later today (I hope).

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