During the week of Oct. 1, at various times and in several places, Kristen Underwood's troupe of youngsters did a short performance about banned books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was surprised at how many books - now considered classics - were once on the list of banned books. Some I never cared for, from an aesthetic point of view: Catcher in the Rye has never impressed me as a jewel of the literary art, but that may be of a piece with my dislike of (some) modern symphonic music. Some of these banned books I love dearly and have on my own shelves, such as To Kill a Mockingbird.

But while the performance kindly gave almost equal time to the arguments of those in favor of banning books, I would like to add two comments to round things out a little.

In an odd way, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who ban books, in the same way a child who grows up to be an exemplary human being may owe a back-handed debt of gratitude to parents who were terrible human beings, or to a hometown that was rife with conflict. Such parents and places serve as a map of how not to be, of what not to do. They embody the old joke, "If I can't serve as a good example, I can at least serve as a horrible warning," and if the kid is able, rather than repeating the mistakes of a previous generation, he may mold his life into a better shape.

Usually kids duplicate the patterns of their forebears, for good or ill, without thinking, but sometimes a kid learns lessons from his life's curriculum neither intended nor fathomed by his "teachers." He breaks out, jumps the traces and says: I will NOT be like this.

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