Texas prison authorities say the works of 40,285 authors are on the approved reading list for inmates. But when the Austin American-Statesman reviewed five years’ worth of publications – about 5,000 titles – whose rejections were appealed by inmates, one thing was clear: Texas prisoners are missing out on some fine reading. Novels by National Book Award winners Pete Dexter, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx and William T. Vollmann have been banned in recent years. Award finalists Katherine Dunn and Barry Hannah are on the Texas no-read list, too, as are Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren and John Updike.
Prisoners can’t peruse certain books by Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide, both Nobel laureates. “Krik? Krak!” by Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, who last year won a MacArthur “genius” grant, is prohibited. Books of paintings by some of the world’s greatest artists – da Vinci, Picasso, Botticelli, Michelangelo – have been ordered out of state correctional facilities. And just because a book is a best-seller in the free world doesn’t mean it’s available on the inside. Harold Robbins, Pat Conroy, Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Barry and James Patterson belong to the don’t-read fraternity.