Celebrate banned books week
September 28, 2000 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Celebrate banned books week by reading something good. This is my favorite often-banned book, what's yours?
posted by mathowie (23 comments total)
The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999 list contains some of the greatest books I've read, such as: To Kill a Mockingbird, Flowers for Algernon, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and Lord Of the Flies. I really don't understand the point of banning books. Then again, Satanic Verses and the movie Midnight Express was banned where I came from...
posted by karen at 7:41 PM on September 28, 2000

of that list:

the adventures of huckleberry finn.

posted by rebeccablood at 7:49 PM on September 28, 2000

It's a tossup for one, so I'll say A Wrinkle in Time, although I just reread the novella version of Flowers for Algernon.
posted by mrmorgan at 8:10 PM on September 28, 2000

The ban on the film of Ulysses in Ireland has just been lifted, more than 30 years after it was made. Finally ending the last restriction on access to Joyce's work in any form.
posted by holgate at 8:23 PM on September 28, 2000

I don't know how many people are familiar with the online books list. They have a section on such things. In fact the whole site is worth looking at.
posted by davidgentle at 8:25 PM on September 28, 2000

i have a longish list of books to read in the forseeable future (TM), and most of these are on there

probably my favorite is Catcher in the Rye...i was assigned to read it for a writing class my only year at Carnegie Mellon and identified so well with it, it was one of the few books i didn't sell
posted by pnevares at 11:17 PM on September 28, 2000

wow, so many of those were books i loved when i was a kid. catcher in the rye, the witches (by roald dahl) and the harry potter books (that i'm reading now) really stick out to me.
posted by sugarfish at 11:19 PM on September 28, 2000

In general, banning is just silly and un-democratic. Also a sign that they've touched a nerve with adults, which will only get kids really curious...

I pick Naked Lunch and Huck Finn as my favorites--perhaps the most important (American?) novels of their respective centuries (IMHO). Both rich in the actual oral (street) language of their times.
posted by aflakete at 12:07 AM on September 29, 2000

Flowers for Algernon is a banned book? Wow. I read Flowers YEARS ago, and it was the second book that actually moved me to tears. (The first being Charlotte's Web :-)

It's by far one of the most important books in my life.
posted by cCranium at 6:36 AM on September 29, 2000

Slaughterhouse Five is one of my favorite banned books. I met my husband over a copy of Slaughterhouse Five.
posted by jchalmers at 6:49 AM on September 29, 2000

Well, too many good ones on the list to pick a favorite, but, by sheer coincidence, I happen to be reading the number eight book on the list, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Celebration by way of serendipity!
posted by debrahyde at 7:15 AM on September 29, 2000

Gotta go with Naked Lunch, for sure, though I love Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, and Slaughterhouse Five as well as many of the kids books. But Burroughs... he was a maniac genius who had some of the greatest insights going into things like bureaucracy, power, drugs, reality, etc. I included a quote from Naked Lunch in the design of my site, in fact.
posted by mikel at 7:33 AM on September 29, 2000

Banned Book Week would be a lot more impressive if these bookstores and libraries weren't trotting out easy-to-defend classics.

Where's the NAMBLA publications? Where are the books that advocate terrorism and political assassination? Where is "White Power"? Why don't I see a radical Zionist book in that store display, right next to "Handmaid's Tale"?

Nope. Instead we get Mark Twain, Atwood, and maybe Hitler.

Banned Book Week is a feel-good, holier-than-thou exercise, and nothing more.
posted by aramaic at 7:34 AM on September 29, 2000

Just a thought, but why in the world is To Kill a Mockingbird on the list of most banned books of the 90s? I'd have to say that is one of my favorite banned books.
posted by trox at 7:36 AM on September 29, 2000

The point is that trying to ban books is silly because you end up banning a lot of really important, powerful, and valuable works. We understand that, but to people who think censorship is a good idea, bringing up classics like Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird is important because it might give them a reason to reconsider their position.

Re To Kill a Mockingbird, as I understand it, a lot of places have banned the book or at least taken it off the reading lists because they feel it's racist and degrading to blacks. Apparently lots of black students don't relate well to the story, which many people accuse of being another "Whitey comes to the rescue of the helpless African American" story. The fact that this was the only solution possible given the setting of TKAM, I don't really understand the point of the argument, but whatever.
posted by daveadams at 9:14 AM on September 29, 2000

"gives them a reason to reconsider their position" I dunno; the whole thing strikes me as pointless preaching to the choir. It's a feeble effort, just for show.

For example, "Hitman: a manual for the independent contractor" is effectively banned. Where were the bookstores then? Oh yeah, that's right -- they were right there pulling the title from their shelves, or else going on TV talking about how they never had such an awful book in the first place. 'Cuz, ya know, we gotta think of the children....

It's hypocritical. All this effort to BBW (hey, someone's gotta print those posters etc.) and none of it is actually going to support real anti-censorship activities, or instigating real discussions. Instead everyone gets to sit around, feel all high & mighty about how great TKAM is, and nothing gets done.

It's armchair activism.
posted by aramaic at 9:49 AM on September 29, 2000

Armchair activism is still activism.

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2000

well, this list purports to be those books that received the *most* such attention in the last year. it doesn't claim to be comprehensive, it just claims to be the top 100.

it makes sense that most of those books are well known, since those would be the ones assigned in classes and so forth.

it also makes sense to try and draw attention to this list because

1) people tend to think that books can't be banned in the US (that's facist regime stuff), and

2)there *are* so many well known titles on it. titles that people wouldn't have considered as book-banning material.

for example, huckleberry finn: the only thing I can think that might be offensive in the book is the continous use of the n-word. in the context of the book that word makes sense, and in fact makes Huck's epiphany more powerful (at least from this modern eye). but that would obviously be offensive to many, many people who hadn't read the book.

or a book that speaks disrespectfully of women. and so on.

the point being that many of the books on that list are probably banned less for their ideas than their verbage.

in any case, when people want books removed from library shelves for whatever reason, they always think they are doing the right thing. looking at a list like this and seeing titles of books they may have read, or that they know are considered to be be great books, might give them a moment of thought about their own actions.

if it doesn't, it reminds the rest of us that this is still going on.

posted by rebeccablood at 11:20 AM on September 29, 2000

"armchair activism is still activism"
Indeed . . . in the same sense that someone who plays basketball on weekends is an athlete. Strictly speaking, yes -- realistically, no.

Besides which, I've seen too many "anti-censorship" people (even the librarians I've worked with) support removing certain books from shelves ("well, TKAM is a great work of art, but The Protocols of the Elders of Zion just goes too far so we'll pull it"). It's soured me on the whole thing, because it's so frequently hypocritical.

When I was doing some research in High School on WWII and anti-semitism, I tried to find a copy of "The Protocols of The Elders of Zion" because I felt it would be useful in providing context for anti-semitism in Europe. D'you wanna guess how many libraries I had to go to before I found it? Two of the libraries I looked at had catalog entries for the book, but both said they didn't have the book itself any more. Guess why.

How the heck am I supposed to understand evil if I can't find it?
posted by aramaic at 11:39 AM on September 29, 2000


Did they specifically tell you that they'd pulled the book from circulation? Because it's just as likely that the book attracted a transgressive following and was stolen. That's the main reason libraries don't carry much in the way of erotica and how-to sex manuals. It's not because the institutions are prudish; it's because the books are routinely swiped and become too costly to repeatedly replace with new copies.

My own library lost two July issues of the New Yorker magazine this summer because they contained the diaries of a British theater critic who included entries about his lusty spankophile ways.

And libraries as censors? Have you seen what American libraries had been dealing with these days, thanks to the voice of Dr. Laura, she who must be obeyed? Despite the library's failure to cater to your esoteric tastes, the institution has been fighting off far bigger assaults, especially since talk radio reached the height of its popularity at the same time the web reached the masses.
posted by debrahyde at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2000

"Hitman: a manual for the independent contractor"

I'm just having a hard time getting all hot under the collar over the unavailability of this book. Is this even a real book? If so why should I care that it isn't available?

What is your point? That we're soft because we won't hit the streets and picket bookstores that won't carry it?
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:43 PM on September 29, 2000

I was really surprised to see A Day No Pigs Would Die on the list as I know I've seen it in a reader's digest condensed version. The RD wouldn't publish anything subversive would they? Would they?
posted by Catch at 8:50 PM on September 29, 2000

Flowers for Algernon is a banned book? Wow. I read Flowers YEARS ago, and it was the second book that actually moved me to tears. (The first being Charlotte's Web :-)

I was surprised to see Flowers For Algernon on the banned list. Like cCranium, I too was moved to tears by that book.
There is some hysteria over Harry Potter lately in central Canada too.
Let them bleat all they want. Book banning is called for by weak people with weak constitutions. We have nothing to fear but fear itself....
posted by daddyray at 6:56 PM on September 30, 2000

« Older Tim Burton's "Stainboy"   |   Baby killing accomplice in trouble with law again. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments