You read banned books, but by whom?

The Ginger Man, J P Donleavy; Howl, Allen Ginsberg; Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov; Ulysses, James Joyce; Lady Chatterley's Lover, D H Lawrence, Fanny Hill, John Cleland; The Arabian Nights, Richard Burton; Candide, Voltaire; Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman; Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe; The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio; The Canterbury Tales, Chancer; Lysistrata, AristophanesBy 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.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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2 Responses to You read banned books, but by whom?

  1. Avatar Brother Jonah says:

    Religious books too, like the Catholic Douay Bible and the Protestant King James 1611, the I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, of course the Kama Sutra… each in separate struggles over among other things Which Church Would Be The State Church…

    And there was a Colorado State law, backed by the U.S. Army, making it a death penalty offense to possess very loosely defined “Regalia of a Medicine Man”.

    Since “The Medicine” means every form, every image and every action in the American Indian life, that means writing your name in the pictograms, like the beadwork patterns, like the Kokapelli, Heart-line Bear, the Hopi cross…
    Could get you hanged. And your “regalia” burned.
    Some would just have it that way.

    When they babble about taking America back to the 17th and 18th centuries or even as late as the 20th century “values” maybe they ought to take a close look at what those “values” were.

    It’s described nicely in books that are, as you stated, being silently burned.

    School Text-books which state that the Civil War was about Slavery and the system of Racism that enabled it, being replaced with newer versions of the Heritage Foundation lies that it was about States Rights. The older books, state property, are being BURNED. What chance, do you reckon, of the school students being able to find a copy at either their school library or in the broader Public Library system?

    I saw a tribute to the Ute Medicine Men in the Ute Pass Libraries at Woodland Park and Florissant. How much would you bet the Redneck Anti-Redskin faction will pull, or already have pulled, that historical display from the libraries?

    Especially since it’s one of the few published reminders of that despicable law.

  2. Avatar Jeddy says:

    Recently it was reported a teacher wrote a sexual fantasy which involved her pupils. She was fired and not allowed near children. The question is sex the issue here? JK Rawling’s Harry Potter adventures go way beyond sex. It involves children the environment is terrifying and there is murder and blood involved. Does that make JK Rawling a person who endangers society by wanting children dead? No she is celebrity and she has a tremendous fan following. Kids are supposed to love her a great deal. Fantasy murder is ok fantasy sex is not. How bizarre. The Internet used to be be free, till places which people used to visit are no banned. Many websites have disappeared just because of some bizarre laws. When the war against Iraq started anyone condemning the invasion was banned. That website torn down. The freedom of speech is only as much as the government allows it, nothing beyond that.
    The real burning of books has started now – the book burning in the virtual world. Viewing specific websites is prohibited. Trying to find them is also not allowed. Sex is bad but there is nothing wrong with murder. Porn is bad massacre is acceptable. Facebook it encourages people to make friends – but that is lie. Facebook does not want its subscribers to make friends. Google only let you such search what it wants you to search. Before a search was a search it randomly went to any place which the search led to. Google’s searches are not random – you will find only those things which it has checked, which is why it is possible to find so many websites – it is never a random search. If another search engines finds something which Google did not – Google will incorporate those searches in its own system. The days of random searches has gone. The search engine did not determine what you should find. Now the search engine decides for you which is insane. I may want something completely different but no, I will only have access to what Google has catalogued. People are being conditioned to accept a controlled environment.

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