Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Year of READING Dangerously: #96 Grendel

OK I guess I really SHOULD change the name of this feature to “A Year *Plus* of READING Dangerously” as I have completely blown my deadline for reading all 100 books on the ALA’s list of most banned and challenged books between 2000 and 2010. But, since Hannah has done such a fabulous job with creating the logo, I’m going to stick to the original title, and we’ll just see how many books I get through. (Or WE get through for those of you who are still playing along.)

Reading Dangerously Logo 2Today’s pick is Grendel, John Gardner‘s 1970/71 masterful retelling of Beowulf. It is really the perfect book for a literature dweeb to pick up for Halloween. So run to your local bookstore and buy your copy now.

Grendel (novel)

Grendel (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t remember when I first read Grendel. It was probably in high school as an add-on assignment to the more classical book. And although I can still recite the first lines of Beowulf in Old English thanks to Sr. Carola, I can assure you I enjoyed reading the story from the monster’s side much more. Who doesn’t love an existential, self-loathing, monster? Am I right?

Ah-hem… not so right. The book has been banned off and on since its publication. The biggest offense seems to be violence (which Grendel has in spades), but it has also been sited for being nihilistic and unsuitable for students in high school. For example:

Grendel was challenged in the Sherwood, Oregon school district after being added to the sophomore honors English class’ reading list. Parents were concerned about scenes in the novel that describe torture and mutilation. … [Rohrbach Library blog]

The book remained on the school’s reading list. Students continue to have the choice of reading other novels that explore the human condition through the eyes of an anti-hero “monster”. (In the case of Sherwood, Oregon, Frankenstein.)

John Gardner, circa 1984

John Gardner, circa 1984 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The novel  inspired an animated film (1981’s Grendel, Grendel, Grendel by Alexander Stitt) and a 2006 opera by Elliot Goldenthal.

Special props to my nephew John who was kind enough to loan me his gently read copy of the novel so I didn’t have read my 30 year old pocket paperback with its teeny-tiny type and crumbling spine.

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