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Banned Book Becomes Best-Seller

September 15, 1986 GMT

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) _ William Faulkner’s novel ″As I Lay Dying″ collected dust for years in libraries and bookstores in western Kentucky, but it has become a hot item since the book was banned in the Graves County school district.

″If they tell us we can’t read something, everybody is going to read it,″ said Johnna Polivick, a Graves County High School senior.

Since the ban was imposed last week, copies of the 1930 novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author have been checked out not only from the county Public Library, where a waiting list has been started, but also from libraries in several adjoining counties.

″People are just curious and like to see what the scuttlebutt is all about,″ said Thomas Sutherland, director of the Paducah Public Library in nearby McCracken County.

The three Readmore bookstores in Paducah and Murray sold out their small stock of the book as soon as it was banned, said sales clerk Mark Smiddy. At least 100 copies are expected to arrive next week, he said.

″There’s been more than a run on the book,″ said Smiddy. ″We’ve had five or six people at a time coming in and wanting to discuss it. Whether or not people agree with the obscenity in the novel, so far all have been against the ban.″

The controversy started when the book was assigned to a sophomore English class at the high school. The students in Delora English’s literature class took their final test on the Faulkner novel, then returned the books Thursday.

The novel was one of about a dozen approved by the school’s language arts department on the advice of local college professors and the American Library Association.

It was selected as an early example of the stream-of-consciousness literary style. In the book, individual members of a rural family react to their mother’s death and burial.

One student, 16-year-old Chris Hill, objected to some of the language in the book. His mother, LaDone Fields Hill, asked the principal to assign her son a different book, then presented her case to the school board.

In an impromptu vote, the board banned the novel. None of the board members had read the book.

The Graves County Baptist Association, made up of about 40 Southern Baptist-affiliated churches, applauded the decision to ban what it called ″filthy literature.″ But the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said it will take legal action if a hastily formed school board review committee does not approve the book.

Not all students are pleased with the ban, said principal Jerald Ellington.

″The students in our other English sections are quite upset now that they’re not going to get to read it,″ he said.

Most teachers in the school ″were disappointed at the procedure by which the school board went about banning the book,″ Ellington said. ″We were not involved in the decision-making process.″

Suzanne Post, executive director of the state ALCU chapter, was delighted at the sudden demand for the novel.

″Isn’t it wonderful?″ she said. ″There’s no better way to hype a book than to ban it.″

Mrs. Post, who coincidentally wrote her master’s thesis on ″As I Lay Dying,″ said the story is not considered one of Faulkner’s best, ″but it deals with an issue that very few American artists have dealt with - death and dying.″