Sunday, December 06, 2009

Banned Books

Written A While Back...

The American Library Association’s infamous Banned Book Week has just ended. Running this year from September 27th to October 3rd, it celebrated the First Amendment and the Freedom Of Speech. Just as many school and public libraries around the country struggled against oppression, there were just as many who proudly displayed some of the most objectionable books on their own shelf. My own younger brother, who possesses both a BA in English Education and a graduate degree in Library And Information Sciences, wrote a series of articles last week; one a day during the BBW, each one concerning a different issue on banned books. While I’m nowhere as knowledgeable on the subject as him, I though I would compose a simple essay about the topic.

Why are certain books banned from school and public libraries? Most often, an individual or particular group find its content offensive in some manner. While personal issues can not necessarily be pinned down, organizations and affiliations frequently have certain ideals that these books somehow speak against or ill of. And these groups can be as different and distinct as Fundamentalist Christians and the United States CIA.

But obviously these books are the deranged ramblings of dangerous predators, right? Would not a book be banned unless it was so vile, so diabolical, that it threatened the very fabric of America? Our neighbors would not rise up against literature lest its contents be so harmful, its message so wicked, that it would forever scar our fragile children for all time? Right?

Here are just a few titles you might recognize…

“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” - by Mark Twain
“As I Lay Dying” - by William Faulkner
“Catch 22” - by Joseph Heller
“Catcher in the Rye” - by J. D. Salinger
“Fahrenheit 451” - by Ray Bradbury
“Flowers in the Attic” - by V.C. Andrews
“Forever” - by Judy Blume
“From Here to Eternity” - by James Jones
“The Glass Teat” - by Harlan Ellison
“Grapes of Wrath” - by John Steinbeck
“Howl” - by Allen Ginsberg
“Lolita” - by Vladimir Nabokov
“Lord of the Flies” - by William Golding
“Satanic Verses” - by Salman Rushdie
“Worlds In Collison” - by Immanuel Velikovsky
“Women on Top” - by Nancy Friday

Hmmm… well, I remember reading a number of those titles in my school years over a decade ago. I’m pretty sure neither I or my classmates are tragically damaged now due to their contents. If anything, I just remember ”Catcher In The Rye” being a boring disappointment.

This is my NO means a comprehensive list; merely titles are frequently challenged. Oh, there are books that get banned by authors like… Maya Angelou, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lewis Carrol, Naom Chomsky, Robert Cormier, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anne Frank, Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Stephan King, Timothy Leary, Arthur Miller, Henry Miller, George Orwell, Thomas Paine, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Anne Rice, Jean-Paul Sartre, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Jonathan Swift, JRR Tolkien, Lev Tolstoy, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut and Walt Whitman.

Yep, pretty much every great author is offensive to somebody.

So read. Read everything. Some try to claim that ”Words are weapons,” but I find that to be histrionic propaganda from those who see us ignorant. Bradbury’s novel "Fahrenheit 451", which is a tale about censorship was actually banned ' for fear of creating too much individualism and independent thought.' Exactly.

Me? Sticks and stones will break your bones, but…

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