To go along with my previous post about book budgets, I decided to count up all the books I considered buying for the YA collection this year. I usually read the following book review magazines for YA reviews: School Library Journal, VOYA, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times Book Review. But I also depend on the reviews that appear on my book vendor’s website which includes Kirkus Reviews (I use Ingram’s iPage). I find myself usually siding with what Kirkus and VOYA have to say.
This list gives you an idea of how many books I’ve considered this year for YA. And most of these books have multiple reviews that I have to read and evaluate, including lots of books that have both rave reviews and horrible reviews.
Total YA books considered in 2013: 1018
Total YA books ordered: 336 or 33% of the books considered
Number of YA books still on my A-list that I haven’t ordered: 271 or 26% of books considered (a small percentage of these books have a 2014 release date)
Number of books on my B-list (mixed reviews): 259 or 25% of book considered
Number of books on my C-list (bad reviews): 93 or 9% of books considered
Number of Manga still on my A-list that I haven’t ordered: 45
Number of book on my MUST-ORDER list: 14 (these are still to-be-published but they are on my radar)
Wow, this puts into perspective how much work I did this year for collection development in YA. I read reviews for over 1,000 books, and with each books getting 2 or more reviews, that’s over 2,000 reviews that I’ve read this year. I’m exhausted looking at this number. It would be interesting to do this again for 2014 and compare.
For those of you wondering how I get my numbers: for every book I consider, I add it to some kind of list, either MUST ORDER, A, B, or C-list. This helps me keep track of what I’ve already looked at so I’m not duplicating my work and looking at books several times. If I see it’s already on a list, I move on to the next book review.
After catching the film “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Turner Classic Movies the other night, I was blown away by the performances and the writing. Now an American classic, I wanted to know more about the film, its background, the process of production, and anything else about the actors, the story, the director that I could discover. I especially wanted to find some criticism that could help clarify some questions I had — for example, What is really true about Blanche’s past and her dead husband? Does Stanley actually rape Blanche? Is Stella really going to leave Stanley? Why does Blanche so eagerly kiss a strange teenager but won’t kiss Mitch? I could probably formulate my own answers if I watched the movie several times more or carefully analyzed the play, but I was interested in what published critics and academics had to say.
I went on the ProQuest database and did a simple search of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Lots of the results were review articles for recent stage adaptations, not exactly what I was looking for. I then added “AND film” to the search box, which gave me better results. The first article I read was truly eye-opening. Dowling’s “The Derailment of A Streetcar Named Desire” in Literature/Film Quarterly (1981) gave insight into the differences between the play and the film script and the role of the censorship board of the Motion Picture industry in the watering down the film’s sexual tones.
For example, a key component was left out of the story of Blanche’s previous marriage. In the play, it’s alluded to that her husband was gay and she actually walked in on him with another man. But this was completely left out of the film, with only his poetry as a single clue (and that’s not even a strong one.) This is the reason why Blanche lashed out at him and he therefore killed himself. It’s a much more well-rounded picture of the situation and of her past, something that I was missing from the film.
I also discovered that the censors wanted to completely do away with the rape scene at the climax of the story, which, thankfully, Tennessee Williams was vehemently opposed to and wrote a letter in protest of. In the play, this scene is much clearer with Stanley actually taking Blanche to his bed. The film, however, just uses the symbolic image of a shattered mirror, which was vague enough to have me wondering if the rape even happened at all.
Ultimately the producers of the film wanted to get as wide an audience as possible and therefore bent to the will of the censors who wanted to keep the public away from some of the most poignant and meaningful elements of the story for fear of the degradation of society. If I had not done a little research and read this article, I don’t think I would have found elsewhere such a detailed account of the censorship forced upon one of the greatest films in American cinema. The real tragedy of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is that it was never allowed to take its original language and intent to the silver screen.