Nat(han Irving) Hentoff Stephanie Zvirin - Essay

Stephanie Zvirin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Day They Came to Arrest the Book is an] undisguised but timely and articulate issue book with a number of artfully developed stereotypes…. New librarian Dierdre Fitzgerald finds herself smack in the middle of [a censorship] controversy when a student, objecting to Twain's portrayal of blacks and his use of the word "nigger" in [Huckleberry Finn] …, complains to his father, who petitions the principal (the most odious character in the book) for the novel's withdrawal from classroom use and from the high school library. Using a number of staged debates, among them a volatile book-review-committee meeting, Hentoff makes his own views clear while he presents principal arguments involved in book censorship and a crystalline statement of the freedoms at stake. He closes with a chilling little scenario that points to the false sense of security that comes from winning one battle while the war rages on. A smattering of realistic language fits in perfectly with the highly charged issues Hentoff brings to the fore, and while his characters remain static and one-dimensional, he presents the issue at hand with zeal and perception.

Stephanie Zvirin, in her review of "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book," in Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright © 1982 by the American Library Association), Vol. 79, No. 2, September 15, 1982, p. 105.