Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Banned Books Week

"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." -  Thomas Jefferson
It's Banned Books Week again from September 27th - October 4th, so pony up a few dollars for a copy of Catcher in the Rye - or the American Heritage Dictionary for that matter or pull that neglected copy of Huck Finn out of storage and give it another read.

Delete Censorship has a great list of 100 Most Frequently Banned or Challenged Books . Here are three of my favorites:
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - hard to know what impact this book would have on me if I read it now for the first time, but when I read it as a teenager, I wept like a baby. A great little novel, with great details (Curely's Vaseline-filled glove), which we tend to take for granted after being forced to read it.
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - the irony of religious groups attempting to ban a book about persecution by the religious should, of course, be lost on no one. And those folk would do well to remember that The Bible consistently appears in lists of banned books, along with the works of Shakespeare, The Koran. In 2003, a Cuban court even ordered copies of The U.S. Constitution destroyed.  In other words, who gets to decide what's offensive?
  • The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende - what's not to love about this rich, colorful work of fiction? Guess it must have some saucy passages that offended the more prudish.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding - not the sunniest appraisal of human nature and how quickly civilization can deteriorate - I imagine it offends both liberals who believe we're all innately good and conservative horrified by kids murdering each other. In other word, it's probably a fairly accurate portrayal of what would happen. Alex Garland added a decade to everyone's age and had a hit with The Beach, so you there's something about the scenario we find compelling. 
Keep in mind, those are just the 100 most frequently banned or challenged - that's "out of 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, as compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association."

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