Dispatches from some hillbilly backwater

No wait, my mistake — this happened just a couple of towns over from where I live, here in the enlightened Northeast.

GUILFORD — The parents of a freshman student whose teacher resigned after he gave her a sexually explicit illustrated book said Wednesday their daughter has been the target of harassment from fellow students, and they want the school district to do more to clarify the issue with other parents.

The girl’s father, who asked that his family remain anonymous because it has already been the target of criticism, described the graphic novel that English teacher Nate Fisher gave the student as “borderline pornography.”

So at this point you’re thinking, this must be some kind of sleazy predator of a teacher, right? Well, not exactly.

The book, one of a series of comic book novels by Daniel Clowes, is called “Eightball #22.”

Yep. Daniel Clowes.

Maybe in the course of “clarifying the issue with other parents,” the school district could explain that this vile pornographer Clowes is also one of the most highly acclaimed practitioners of his craft alive today, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the recipient of numerous Harvey Awards, and an Academy Award nominee, among other things.

What an obvious lowlife! No wonder that teacher lost his job. Next thing you know, he might have been teaching James Joyce, or Shakespeare. Have you seen the things those guys wrote about?

More here.

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… adding, here’s a review of the book in question from Time magazine. Worst case scenario, leaving all snark aside, Clowes’ book might not have been an age-appropriate assignment — but for its psychological themes, not any perceived “pornographic” aspects. (Though I’m informed by a journalist friend that this issue of Eightball was recommended by the School Library Journal for grades 10 and up.) In any case, barring other information we don’t have yet, it is certainly not something a rookie teacher should lose his job, and possibly career, over. Let alone be prosecuted for. As a Publisher’s Weekly blogger notes:

As for whether the teacher in question can be prosecuted…well, Clowes’ new comic strip running in the NY Times and general reputation as a respected literary figure would certainly make any legal action very interesting. In fact, EIGHTBALL #22 was eventually collected by Random House as the grahpic novel ICE HAVEN, making prosecution seem crazy mad. But sadly, worse things have happened in these United States. If nothing else, this small town tale of a very protective father, a well liked teacher, and a girl harassed by her schoolmates could be something out of…A DANIEL CLOWES COMIC!

…also adding, just to be crystal clear: there is nothing remotely pornographic about the book this student was given. If you haven’t read it, don’t be misled by the sensationalistic description in the first link; the New Haven Register is not, let’s say politely, the New York Times. And anyway, as I say, one could describe most of the classics of Western literature, not to mention the Bible, in equally lurid terms. Eightball #22 (later compiled as “Ice Haven”) unquestionably contains mature themes, but to even use the word “pornography” in conjunction with it is an absurdity beyond my capacity to express.

(some editing for clarity…)