You read banned books, but by whom?
By which I mean: BANNED by whom? Looking online for a definitive listing of most-often banned or censored books yields a panoply of titles not necessarily candidates for a pantheon. At right I’ve stacked the heavyweights most often resisted for being obscene, here a quality strangely inseparable from being subversive. Many of these titles have been intercepted through the ages by the US Post Office for being indecent under the Comstock Law, but how does that really inform readers of today?
These days the issue of censorship conjures images of Nazi bonfires, and petty bureaucrats like Sarah Palin calling her public library to inquire about pulling objectionable material from public circulation. The ACLU helps celebrate an annual Banned Books Week, and there’s even a t-shirt popular in elementary school circles which declaims “I read banned book.”
Sexual themes aside, isn’t good literature by definition subversive? “Banned books” of note show themselves by who’s trying to limit their circulation. Solzhenitsyn for example, was silenced by the USSR, not by authorities fretting over you. On the other hand, what the Nazis burned shared themes the US has sought to censor before and since, but the big whoop we make about banned books instead obsesses on lascivious or politically incorrect vocabulary. While literary publicists revel in the notoriety of inconsequential attacks on the ilk of Harry Potters, the digital and mass media age has meant sophisticated advancements in real book burning. I’d like to present an illustrated series about literary works which have threatened authoritarian rule in the past, your access to which is quietly receding.