Archive for September 16th, 2010

More on Molly Norris: Writer, medievalist speaks out

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Before she was erased

I’m grateful that yesterday’s post on Molly Norris, the cartoonist irrevocably linked with the Facebook “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” project that she repudiated, was at least part of the inspiration for this eminently sane rumination, from a guy I never heard of before, an erstwhile cartoonist and current author, Jeff Sypeck.   (PostscriptNew York Times article just posted an hour ago here.)

An excerpt, that doesn’t quite do Sypeck’s whole piece justice (again, read the whole mini-essay here):

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re breaking no other laws, then you can say whatever you want, draw whatever you want, and deface or defile anything that’s your own property, be it a flag, a holy symbol, an effigy, you name it. However, in return, I reserve the right to judge you, denounce you, lobby against you, tell others how wrong you are, and speak vociferously in reply. Speech invites consequences, and I’m open to arguments about responsible, voluntary limits. That said, I’ll always put threats and violence on the far side of that line, and I’ll never suggest that in a free society, an artist or writer was asking to be forced to erase herself from existence.

So yes, despite being a pretty inoffensive writer, I took the news about Molly Norris personally, just as I did in 2008 when I read that Sherry Jones’s publisher was firebombed. I’ve written a book in which Muslims guzzle wine, Jews own slaves, and Christians kill in the name of religion. While nothing about my take on the early Middle Ages is all that wild, what’s to stop some hateful, publicity-seeking pastor from hagriding me, or some Islamic fanatic from registering his disapproval via DaggerGram? If doodles can incite worldwide riots, how can I know that my 20-page depiction of a liberal, even libertine, Baghdad won’t light a madman’s fuse?

Guy I never heard of

The book (we might as well give it a plug, as a hat tip) is 2006’s  Becoming Charlesmagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A.D. 800 (HarperCollins).  Kirkus Reviews said:

“Debunking the myths that surround legendary figures is a tricky business, but Sypeck acknowledges the allure of the ways in which Charlemagne and his era have been romanticized …  Illuminates the shadowy corners of an era shrouded in the mists of legend.”

The author has the distinction of growing up  in a central New Jersey town known for  the nation’s only cat leash law.  Now that’s whacko.