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September 26, 2005 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Once again, it's "Banned Books Week" in which we celebrate those books which have been challenged to be removed from public and school libraries. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that banning books from public access was unconstitutional, the effort remains. We can at least take comfort in knowing that, although opinions may vary, Americans don't actually burn books they hate.

Oops.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies (43 comments total)

 
*warms toes by the 451 degree flames.
posted by caddis at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2005


I've never even heard of Bless me, Ultima. If it involves magical realism, I'll probably continue to love my ignorance.
posted by Atreides at 8:04 PM on September 26, 2005


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There were 8 results for "banned book" in the following threads

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Once again, it's "Banned Books Week" in which we celebrate those books which have been challenged to be removed from public and school libraries. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that banning books from public access was unconstitutional, the effort remains. We can at least take comfort in knowing that, although opinions may vary, Americans don't actually burn books they hate.

Oops.
posted on September 26, 2005 Go to the detail view for this result

"Libraries are rich, deep, resources for preserving cultural heritage and indispensable resources for the communities they serve.” OCLC, a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization, has compiled a list of the top 1000 titles owned or licensed by its 50,000+ member libraries. There are sublists by subject, a cross listing with a banned books list, and some fun facts, including the supremely annoying one that the highest listed living author is Jim Davis of Garfield fame (#18).
posted on November 30, 2004 Go to the detail view for this result

Banned books week begins today. This is the week where the ALA comes out fighting, by raising awareness, against the constant attempts at censorship from ideologues, religious groups, anti-free speech types, etc. Top 100 challenged books here.
posted on September 20, 2003 Go to the detail view for this result

The following is a [partial] list of the most frequently challenged books of 2001...
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
3. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (the "Most Challenged" fiction book of 1998)
4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
5. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
(Last week was Banned Books Week. Sorry this is late. Did you remember to hug your favorite banned book? Does anyone really think children need to be "protected" from these books?)
posted on September 30, 2002 Go to the detail view for this result

Turn off the TV because it's Banned Books Week once again in the US. Personally, I've only read about 15% of the top 100 most challenged books from the past decade, though many of my favorites are there. In the midst of our freedoms being curtailed during the Current Situation, enjoy your freedom to read while you can.
posted on September 27, 2001 Go to the detail view for this result

Banned books are nothing new, but this is just ridiculous.
"Those modern classics and seven other books have come under routine fire for profane language, unpleasant racial themes and references to homosexuality." Considering this , why is it an issue. [see no evil]
posted on August 29, 2001 Go to the detail view for this result

Celebrate banned books week by reading something good. This is my favorite often-banned book, what's yours?
posted on September 28, 2000 Go to the detail view for this result

This new "FreeNet" sounds like a perfect utopia, where all information is free like beer, and not just free like speech. Some of the provisions for the network, like not being able to remove a file, remaining anonymous, and not even being able to track down where the files are really coming from make it sound like a anarchist's paradise. I'm wondering though, will it be a place to exchange banned books, or will it be clogged with porn, warez, and mp3s? Will it be populated with idealists against censorship, or AOLers wanting free stuff? Do things always go to the lowest common denominator right away, or does it take time?
posted on April 26, 2000 Go to the detail view for this result

posted by caddis at 8:06 PM on September 26, 2005


The Supreme Court didn't actually rule that banning books from public access was unconstitutional; it only held that removal of controversial books from a public school library was unconstitutional when the school's wide discretion was exercised in a narrowly partisan or political manner. The Court expressly limited its decision to the facts of that case, and noted that acquisition and curriculum decisions were governed by different principles.

Nonetheless, Pico is an important case, despite what the Supreme Court has done to gut its import since.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:07 PM on September 26, 2005


We sure do like our banned books week, don't we caddis? :-)
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 8:08 PM on September 26, 2005


We sure do. My toes are toasty. How about yours?
posted by caddis at 8:12 PM on September 26, 2005


Dude, that list is AWESOME.

#28 is "The New Joy of Gay Sex" by Charles Silverstein, which apparently American parents find less subversive than #22: "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L’Engle.

Nice.
posted by billysumday at 8:19 PM on September 26, 2005


I would ban:

"Mastering the art of French cooking" by Julia Child, because the book is too big and the recipes are too hard.

"fear of Flying" By Erica Jong, because I understand it's
really bad.

"Breakfast of Champions" by Kurt Vonnegut, Because the author admits in the foreword that it is his worst book, plus it contains a drawing of an anus by the author that will stick with you.
posted by longsleeves at 8:33 PM on September 26, 2005


19. Sex by Madonna

Man, I would've been so pissed had that been taken off my 11th grade reading list.
posted by item at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2005


I would have to assume that parents are generally less aware of #28's existance.

The sheer fact that someone would want to ban a book is not a matter of offensiveness, but of fear. What happens if kids are allowed to learn about what's out there in the real world? I bet if we didn't restrict access, we'd see America's student rankings improve against those from other countries.
posted by mystyk at 8:37 PM on September 26, 2005


plus it contains a drawing of an anus by the author that will stick with you.
Wow and I thought I was the only one that has carried that mental baggage around for 30 years
posted by mss at 8:42 PM on September 26, 2005


Why, oh why is this on the list:
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
If you can't find Waldo, just ask someone to HELP you instead of banning the entire book!
posted by easternblot at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2005


i loved Banned Books Week as a teacher. one year i came into the classroom with a big box and took every book off the classroom library shelves that was on the ALA's list and put it in the box. the (secondary level) kids watched for a few minutes, then asked what i was doing. "Well, these are books that are considered controversial. So I've been told to take them away." a few of them came up and started to look at the books i was removing. "No way! This one??" (one of them was a copy of the Bible, as i recall. also a version of the dictionary. it got to be a pretty full box.)

i was so proud when they decided to walk out and call a meeting with our director. (who was the only one who knew of my plan.) by the end of the day, i had all the "banned" books on display with a black band around each explaining where and why each of them was banned. for the rest of the year, kids took special pleasure in breaking the paper band around one of the "bad" books and reading it.

there's nothing like banning a book to make a kid want to read it.
posted by RedEmma at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2005


is there a list of the top 100 contested books that also list WHY each book is contested?

the ALA list is nice, but i'm not understanding what is objectionable about books like "where's waldo." a list kinda like this one would be ideal, if it were more inclusive.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 9:01 PM on September 26, 2005


I have such a love/hate relationship with banned books week. I'm aggressively anti-censorship and in favor of letting kids read what they want, but seeing it becoming a shopping holiday sort of irks me. Most of the books on the recent banned books lists are in trouble for being "unsuitable for age groups" which means that people contest their being in school libraries [or assigned reading in schools] but to me banning has always been a stronger sort of Farenheit 451 word than that. Challenged books doesn't have the same ring of authenticity, though it's much much more accurate. It's still a problem, but it's not the same sort of problem.

Additionally, maybe someone can shed some light on one of the books on this year's list "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles. I know this is a hot-button topic, but wasn't this book basically officially discredited? I'm not saying that is a fair reason for banning per se, but we'll toss library books [we call it "weeding" charmingly] for much less grievous offenses and inaccuracies.

There is so much more to be concerned with in the world of state power restricting access to information in the US nowadays [to say nothing of other countries like China and Saudi Arabia and Cuba and Canada and Iraq and Lebanon] that Banned Books Week always seems sort of quaint, harkening back to a time where the only thing we had to worry about was book banning.
posted by jessamyn at 9:04 PM on September 26, 2005


to partially answer my own question, this site has reasons for banning waldo, but it's still not as comprehensive as i'd hoped.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 9:08 PM on September 26, 2005


Jess, I had to flag your comment as "fantastic post/comment." Thanks. You eloquently stated what I so ineloquently stated with my earlier post.
posted by caddis at 9:10 PM on September 26, 2005


Ziggy, there's this list. Perhaps not the top 100, but it has Waldo, at least:
Removed from the Springs Public School library in East Hampton, N.Y. (1993) because there is a tiny drawing of a woman lying on the beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top.
posted by smackfu at 9:11 PM on September 26, 2005


So many people these days spout "information wants to be free." Mostly they mean, I want to steal your intellectual property. The best meaning would be that censorship is bad.
posted by caddis at 9:15 PM on September 26, 2005


Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle

But, but, this book was mom's excuse to never have any sort of "the talk" with me. She just tossed into my room one day and then waited for school to teach me the rest.
posted by hopeless romantique at 9:19 PM on September 26, 2005


Ziggy, there's this list. Perhaps not the top 100, but it has Waldo, at least:

sweet. that's more or less what i'm looking for, thanks.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 9:25 PM on September 26, 2005


You know, those children were created through a good fucking, each and every one.

Don't deny children the truth.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:30 PM on September 26, 2005


Ziggy's list indicates that South Africa at one point banned the paperback version of Lolita. What the hell?
posted by gsteff at 9:45 PM on September 26, 2005


You know, those children were created through a good fucking, each and every one.

Fucking: yes. Good: uncertain.
posted by gsteff at 9:47 PM on September 26, 2005


RedEmma, the bible was on the list? That's just messed up, unless it's listed as part of the science curriculum.
posted by mystyk at 9:52 PM on September 26, 2005


were/are obscenity trials constitutional?
posted by Satapher at 11:12 PM on September 26, 2005


> wasn't this book basically officially discredited

Where is this list of officially discredited books published?

It would be very helpful to know which books were officially discredited, as opposed to which ones were simply discredited in the popular imagination by the relentless efforts of a particular pressure group?

> plus it contains a drawing of an anus by the author

That's no reason to ban it. If anything, it's a positive thing, acting as an early desensitization mechanism preparing the reader for their forthcoming inadvertent exposure to goatse.cx.

Without prior exposure to Breakfast of Champions, advice columnists like Dan Savage would see many more letters of the following form:

Dear Dan,
I'd always thought my anus was perfectly normal until this week when my partner attempted to talk me into the active role in a practice he called 'fisting'. Now I like to think I'm as good, giving and game as the next guy, but I just don't think my ass was made to take a man's fist. However, when I expressed my concerns, he showed me a photograph on a website called goatse.cx and told me that after a very brief period, my ass would rapidly grow to accommodate fingers, buttplugs, fists, and ultimately, a pride of gerbils.

Is a man's asshole supposed to look like this?
Yours, etc.
Overly Tight Sphincter

Dear OTS,
Back in the permissive sixties, I'd refer you to Kurt Vonnegut's book 'Breakfast of Champions' to show you how your salad *should* look prior to being tossed. However, since this book was banned, only outlaws have tight sphincters. As for the rest of us, we've all suffered from our attempts to emulate images of unattainable perfection as perpetuated by various underground media stars such as Goatse Man, Tubgirl, etc.

Though I appreciate that such images initially look forbidding, my expert advisors assure me that such results are ultimately achievable by pretty well everyone, provided you're prepared to invest the time and effort in getting those results. And as a Savage Love reader, I know that you're sufficiently Good, Giving and Game to want to put in that effort, so I'll just offer you one last tip:

When you do get around to doing the gerbil thing, be sure to wrap it in duct tape first. The claws on those little suckers really can play havoc with the walls of the bowel.
Yours,
Dan
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:27 PM on September 26, 2005


I found Harry Potter-George Bush fanfiction. I kid you not.

Draco sniggered. Sirius shot him a dangerous look. But George apparently had something more to say. He looked from Draco to Harry and then told them, very much in earnest, “You boys want to think about the sinful way you’re living your life. You could each-- you could find a girl. Two girls. I’m sure you would like some girls. Boys should like girls, you know.”

Harry was nonplussed by this impromptu speech, but Draco didn’t miss a beat. “Naw,” he said, looking George straight in the face, “Girls are ok, but Harry’s got a great dick.”

George looked scandalized; Sirius rolled his eyes. “Goodbye George,” he said. “Have fun running the country.” And then on impulse, and because it seemed a primo joke, Sirius grabbed George Herbert Walker Bush and kissed him full on the mouth. Draco whistled. Harry gaped. George grabbed the back of the couch for support.


I win.
posted by Windigo at 12:26 AM on September 27, 2005


Oh, CRAP. Wrong thread.
posted by Windigo at 12:27 AM on September 27, 2005


< tries to save face>Though, in my defense, if it were a book, I bet it would be banned< /fails trying>

I lose at the internets.
posted by Windigo at 12:35 AM on September 27, 2005


My eyes! MY EYES! Aiiiieeee!
posted by litlnemo at 2:46 AM on September 27, 2005


Great comment Jessamyn. When I worked at a bookstore banned book week was indeed treated as a sales moment.
posted by OmieWise at 5:30 AM on September 27, 2005


What is particularly wrong with a sales moment in a bookstore? I'm not trying to be a snark, but it seems that unless the entire reason for banned book week is to secretly sell controversial books, there's no harm.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 8:11 AM on September 27, 2005


> wasn't this book basically officially discredited

Where is this list of officially discredited books published? It would be very helpful to know which books were officially discredited


There's no list. Wouldn't it be helpful if the government just published one every year? "These books now no longer tell The Truth. Please forget you ever read them."

My point was that the publisher of this book halted publication of the book and was said to have asked libraries to remove the books from shelves. The author had received the Bancroft Prize from Columbia University which was rescinded. 2nd Amendment pro-gun folks go so far as to call the book a "hoax" and mainstream academics consider the work misleading. Then again, the gun lobby in the US is incredibly strong which is another piece of information to take into account. [wikipedia article] I have no position of the veracity of the book, just on how libraries interpret the experts.

So.... at some level libraries place faith in publishers and academia and reviewers that the things that pass their vetting are at least of some minimal level of quality and accuracy such that putting them in a library makes sense. That's why they tend to flip out over Wikipedia. However, the fact that this particular book -- discredited in many major ways -- continues to show up on these "banned books list" along with the entreaty that all banning [which is a misnomer anyhow] is always bad seems to seriously weaken the otherwise stronger position of this bizarre librarian/bookseller holiday. Sorry for the length, it's my own peculiar axe to grind.
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 AM on September 27, 2005


plus it contains a drawing of an anus by the author

For those of you fuming because you don't happen to have a copy of Breakfast of Champions handy, the anus drawing mentioned looks very much like a hand-drawn asterisk.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2005


Bizarre. Several of these books (Of Mice and Men, The Handmaids Tale, I know Why The Caged Bird sings) were required reading in UK schools when I grew up.
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on September 27, 2005


People are entirely too weird about sex. I find it incredibly tiresome.
posted by Specklet at 10:29 AM on September 27, 2005


Many of these books are required reading in US classrooms too, Artw, thought that'll depend an awful lot on the district. I can't imagine many districts don't have their kids read Huckleberry Finn or Catcher in the Rye at some point.

"Banned" has a very particular meaning in Banned Books Week. It really means "Complained about." A book is banned, as far as BBW is concerned, if someone complains about a book and says that it should be taken out of a library, or not checked out to kids.

The library doesn't have to actually take the book out, or restrict access to adults, to have the book listed as banned.

If I walk in tomorrow and demand that the library remove, say, Legislative Leviathan from its shelves because it's very badly organized, that book is "banned" from the moment the library staff receive my complaint. Even if they don't remove it. Even if that laugh at my face, kick me in the balls, and give me an Atomic Wedgie for making such a dumb complaint.

But "List Of Books That Someone Somewhere Complained About At Least Once" doesn't have the same ring to it as "List of Banned Books."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:34 AM on September 27, 2005


If a list of banned books came out, would that list itself be banned?

I'm really astonished people still actually burn/destroy books. That's a whole other level of insanity.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:41 AM on September 27, 2005


I teach math in a middle school, and I was incredibly pleased to see a Banned Books Week display prominently set up in a stairwell near my classroom, especially with tomorrow being back to school night. Librarians have really taken it upon themselves to speak out against the repression of ideas, and have also voiced strong opposition to provisions of the Patriot Act which permit the government to look in on an individual's borrowing habits in recent years. This is a great way to keep education a progressive domain and to give kids an appreciation for civil liberties.
posted by alphanerd at 1:08 PM on September 27, 2005


I'm really astonished people still actually burn/destroy books. That's a whole other level of insanity.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:41 AM PST on September 27 [!]


I have trashed books that I thought were so bad I thought it would be a disservice to sell them to the used book store. I don't feel any obligation to keep bad books in circulation. There is nothing sacred about a crappy paperback.


posted by Mr T at 1:45 PM on September 27, 2005


regarding the Bible being "banned"--my 1990 copy of the ALA list is in storage at the moment, so i'm unsure what it said that led me to tape up and display the book, but a little search leads me to recollect that it was about the Revised Standard Version or a "Good News" version not being a "proper" Bible, or possibly it was about Tynedale's New Testament...(EMBEDDED MUSIC--yikes!) or even just about how people seem to have some idea that only the KJV is worthy of being "god's own word"...there are lots of reasons the Bible has been disapproved of in various ways. it might have even been about the international issues, like when the Soviets banned it. or Saudi Arabia. i found a few links in modern times describing the fundies complaining about the Bible being banned in classrooms--which i say is silly: better to treat it as no different than any other book, i say. if a kid's favorite poem is Psalm Whatever-the-hell, then big f-ing deal. This link has a couple (separated) paragraphs on Bible-banning.

i taught in a private day school, and being a pagan charged with teaching World Religions, i never had any problem having all kinds of religious texts in my classroom, myself.

and Mr. T: i confess to having kept myself warm a few poor nights of wood-heat and 40-below with bags of excess Tom Clancy (that were only going to rot in Old Man Carlson's leaky storage upstairs...). i felt guilty, but also strangely glad to be ridding the world forever of books that had led to the slow leak of my father's IQ.
posted by RedEmma at 8:23 PM on September 27, 2005


But "List Of Books That Someone Somewhere Complained About At Least Once" doesn't have the same ring to it as "List of Banned Books."

Yeah, this is one of the major problem with Banned Books Week, IMHO. There's also the issue of books which someone "challenged" to have them taken off the curriculum, which is another issue -- because you're not saying "no one should be allowed to read this book", you're saying "no one should be forced to read this book".

Already we've mentioned whether it's appropriate to keep a book that's factually inaccurate. I would suspect that any collection development policy would suggest removing or not purchasing such a book. I don't know the argument against the gun book, but I do know one perenniel favorite of these lists is Go Ask Alice, which is pretty clearly an out-an-out forgery. Snopes has a writeup on it, but really all you have to do is read the book to realize how completely fake it is. So the question is -- should a school library carry this book, which claims to be a real diary, but isn't? Should they then also carry a similar volume of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Should they teach Go Ask Alice as truth in a classroom? Are you a "censor" if you go to the school board and tell them to stop teaching your children lies?
posted by dagnyscott at 8:13 AM on September 28, 2005


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