Monday, June 25, 2012

Opinion — They’re Still Trying To Tell You What You Can and Can’t Read

A popular new writer has taken the bestseller lists by storm and has, in fact, created some clouds in the book world. The steamy books of Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy have been banned from libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Maryland and Florida — so far. The literary loss may be debatable, but the principle isn’t.

Many of the book banners use the fragile minds children as cause. Save the children is a phrase used by all sorts of folks who wish to control the minds of the rest of us.  The children are rarely threatened.  It is likely they are not even interested in reading what they are not yet curious about. It is usually the last resort for those seeking allies in their efforts to determine what their neighbors read.  I suspect that young readers seeking information need it.  If they are curious about the world, they should be encouraged to seek it. And it is better to get an education from a reliable source than to pick it up from uneducated sources on the street — or in some cases at home.  Librarians are trained in this area and they should be allowed to make decisions concerning what books are available to all members of the public.

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.
—  Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech at Dartmouth College, June 14, 1953

Of course the all the screaming from the bluenoses can only have helped the marketing effort of this surprise bestseller.  I remember when the phrase “Banned in Boston” was plastered all over the cover of books the publisher was eager to sell.  On the other hand, banning shows an incredible ignorance. It’s neither right nor effective.

Over the Years — Books Banned by the U.S. or State governments (Wikipedia)

Candide, Voltaire
Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
Catch 22, Joseph Heller (some states)
The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
Fanny Hill, John Cleland
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (some states)
Howl, Allen Ginsberg
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence
Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
Operation Dark Heart, Anthony Shaffer (2010)
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (Arizona Schools)
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
Ulysses, James Joyce
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe  (Southern states)
United States — Vietnam Relations: 1945-1967, Robert McNamara (also known as The Pentagon Papers

The following classics that offended some members of the public would make a great reading list for students of English language novels. 

Classics Most Challenged in U.S. Public Libraries (American Library Association)
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
10. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
11. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
12. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
13. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
14. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
15. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
16. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
17. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
18. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
19. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
20. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

21. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
22. Native Son, by Richard Wright
23. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
24. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
25. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
What a great list.

Opinion, observations, banned books, libraries, Fifty Shades of Gray, censorship

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