Thursday’s Things #10: Banned Books Edition

1001 Things
Original Image: Viktor Hertz

Since it’s Banned Books Week, all of this “Thursday’s Things” are related to banned books.  I’ve also updated the Banned Books page to remove broken links so check it out for even more information about banned books.  Sometime during this month, I’ll do a second “Thursday’s Things” in celebration of all things Halloween.

Banned Books Week! – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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*Above artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

It is amazing to me how difficult it has been for me to find books that have been banned for reasons other than language and/or sexual content.  American culture seems to be obsessed with four letter words and the bedroom, or at least obsessed with seeing the use of either as a sign of immorality and wanting any use of the former or any discussion of the latter to go away so that we can all pretend they don’t exist.  It’s no wonder there are many out there who are deliberately rude and crude.  They’re trying to shake things up and get people to take the sticks out of their rear ends, lighten up, and stop taking life so seriously.

Brave

Then there’s Aldous Huxley, and his book Brave New World.  To be honest, I knew about Brave New World, but I’ve never read it, and I had no idea what it was about.  From the title, I had guessed that it was similar to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The only thing they have in common is that they are both critiquing society.  That’s right, Huxley isn’t trying to get anyone to lighten up.  He wants us to really take a look at how we live and see that all of our drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. is the problem.  So why would anyone want to ban this book?  In addition to being considered obscene, people thought it vilified the family, and encouraged drug use, which is the exact opposite of what he was doing.  It was also thought to be depressing, negative, and fatalistic, as well as promoting conformity of all things.  There was such an uproar in some cases that teachers were fired.  In 2000, it was pulled from a library in Alabama because it supposedly showed contempt for religion and marriage.  All of this makes me want to scream “You’re missing the point!”

For those of you who have read Brave New World, what are your thoughts?  Is it a moral tale or a story designed to corrupt society?

Thursday’s Quotables #3 – Banned Books Week!

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*Above artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Since it’s Banned Books Week, I decided to use one of the resource books I found at the library for this today’s Quotables.  It has a section of quotes, and I found several that are either thought provoking or just simply awesome.

The first quote falls into the latter category:

“Whenever I notice that my name isn’t on the list of banned and challenged authors, I feel faintly like I’m letting the side down.  Although I suspect all I’d have to do to get on the list is to write a book about naked, bisexual, hard-swearing wizards who drink a lot while disparaging the Second Amendment, and I’d be home and dry.” – Neil Gaiman

The second and third quotes are more thought provoking:

“Where there is official censorship it is a sign that speech is serious.  When there is none, it is pretty certain that the official spokesmen have all the loudspeakers.” – Paul Goodman

“A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry” – Thomas Jefferson

These made me think about the media and the plethora of useless and often ridiculous information that gets spouted on every form of communication available.  Though the first quote specifically mentions “official spokesmen”, I think it still holds true when you include all the news networks.  Perhaps the lack of truly important news is only because they’re going with what sells, but it makes me wonder if there isn’t a second reason.  I’m reminded of the Roman phrase “bread and circuses”.  The Romans had the gladiators; we have celebrities.

Which leads me to the fourth quote I found:

“Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance” – Lyndon Baines Johnson, commenting as he signed a bill providing an increase in Federal aid for libraries on Feb. 11th, 1964

I HAD to include this quote because LBJ was an alumni of my university on top of being a supporter of libraries and education (click on the picture for more info).

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Banned Books Week! – I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

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*Above artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

To celebrate Banned Books Week, I spent some time in the library looking for books on the subject.  I found 2 promising ones, 100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature and Banned Books: 2007 Resource Guide (unfortunately, that was the most recent year available).  As I discover more of the books that have been banned from these and other resources, I will post about them.  I will also be creating a page dedicated to banned books, with resources and links for learning more and finding the banned books that will soothe the rebel in all of us!

Since much of the media discusses the most banned books or the most well known books that have been banned, I’ve decided to concentrate on books that have been banned within the last 30 years, and were unknown to me.  I won’t be discussing books banned for sexual content or language, as most of the banning for those reasons involves schools and what children should be reading.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m against censorship and the banning of books for any reason; however, I think it’s important for parents to be involved in their children’s education, and I’m not going to judge or criticize their parenting.

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That being said, the first book I’ll be discussing, I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, involves being banned from schools over some language in the book.  However, it was also banned for another reason: it was considered to be subversive and anti-government.  After a couple complaints, the Superintendent of schools, Leonard Hall, who felt it was wrong to question the government, banned the book, created an extreme review policy for choosing books, and then went on to ban 64 others from the schools in Bay County, Florida.  The banning led to a lawsuit (Farrell v. Hall) in 1987, which was eventually settled out of court, but only because Hall chose not to run for re-election.

What do you think, Reader?  Which is more un-American: the book for presenting the idea of questioning government, or wanting to keep that idea from young adults?