The Book's Lover

The Book's Lover
Damiano Cali

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banned Books Week: Naomi

 Today’s post is in honor of Banned Books Week.  I won’t waste your time by explaining why banning books is bad.  I won’t mention Hitler’s book-burnings, or GroupThink, or the dangers of a world without critical dialogue.  If you’re reading my blog, Gentle Reader, I presume you have enough brain cells to rub together to figure all of that out.  I’m not worried about you; I’m worried about everyone else…

Because the idea of book-banning has not gone away.  Last week's banning of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man in Randolph County, North Carolina makes it perfectly clear that some people still see ideas as dangerous.  Thankfully, that ruling has been reversed, in spite of one committee member asserting that “I didn’t find any literary value” in the book.  Sure.  It only won a National Book Award.  It's only number 19 on the Modern Library's list of the 100 greatest English-language novels of the 20th century.   It only has its own monument.  Nope, obviously dreck. 

But let's be honest, Gentle Readers.  Even if the book was total crap (50 Shades, I'm a-lookin' at you), I will still respect your right to read it.  I will judge you, O Twilight readers, but I will not ban your book, regardless of its literary merit or lack thereof.  Read as thou wilt.

There are hundreds of people that do not agree with my laissez-faire reading philosophy.  Here is a list of the 100 most-challenged books from 2000-2009.  And here is a PDF of books that were banned or challenged in 2013.  One of those challenged books?  An easy-to-read version of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.  Because it's not like Shakespeare can teach us anything. And let's be honest, Readers: Do you really think middle schoolers are going to understand all of Shakespeare's sex jokes in R&J? Did you? *headdesk*

Also challenged or banned in the past are such heretical texts as Where's Waldo?, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Alice in Wonderland.  Oh, yeah.  You know what else has been banned?  THE DICTIONARY.  Because it defines sex words like "breast."  Filthy, filthy educators.

All I can speak to with real authority is my own experience.  And Readers, I read all kinds of age-inappropriate material when I was growing up.  And somehow I am—against all odds—well-educated, highly critical of what I read, and able to make my own decisions.  Color me shocked.  All the personality flaws that I possess I blame on my parents, not on my reading materials.  

Ray Bradbury said “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”  In a world where children are more likely to watch a watered-down film adaptation than crack a book, and people are content to get the "real" news from The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, I am worried that a culture without books is imminent.  And that frightens me.  

So Banned Books Week is not over, Good People of the Intertubes!   Find a book that someone, somewhere, thought you shouldn't read.  Read it.  Love it.  Hate it.  It doesn't matter.  But think about it.  Don't let someone else decide what you need to know, what's good for you.  Sometimes, the best things in life are a little naughty. 

And if talking of banned books gets you depressed, just read this article about a publisher, a book outlet, and private citizens who banded together to give away free copies of Invisible Man in Randolph County.  America, I love you.
Buy this spiffy Banned Books tote bag here from Out of Print Books.  Also look at their t-shirts.  I own like 8 million of them and I LOVE them.  So buy me one while you're shopping.  I need Goodnight Moon, please.

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