Thursday, 19 September 2013

Banned Books Week

Thanks to a friend, JeriWB I learned that next week 22 - 28 September is Banned Books Week, and it got me to thinking about banned books and banning books. Some rather noteworthy books have been banned in the past, books like

Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence
The explicit scenes of love (not by today's standards) between Lady Chatterley and her 'servant' lover was banned in the UK between 1928 and 1960 when Penguin fought in the courts for the right to publish. It went on to become a classic

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Banned in many US libraries in the 1930's and 1950's for daring to have a strong, independent and even stubborn female character, God forbid one's wives and daughters get ideas from that. Also it was clearly flirting with the satanic with its characters of witches, flying monkeys and talking animals.

Ulysses by James Joyce
Despite being hailed as one of the most important works of literature of the twentieth century it was declared obscene by a court in the US and banned due to its reference to masturbation

Harry Potter
The first four books made it to the list of the most banned books in America for promoting witchcraft and the occult

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
Banned for obscenity after a trial, even though there is nothing more than a kiss - between two women, which was considered likely to 'deprave and corrupt'.

There are many more. It appears ridiculous now, looking back, but at the time people were very serious about it, serious enough to go to court to support (or suppress) the right of free speech. It would seem that freedom of speech is fine provided it/'s 'freedom to speak in a way I find acceptable'.

Recently, paypal has instituted new policies with regard to 'obscene' publications and have introduced sanctions to those distributors who continue to distribute them. Smashwords, for one, have ceased accepting books which they consider cross this like.

The offending content includes, incest, bestiality, rape-for-titillation and under age erotica. For a more in depth discussion of the subject, including paypal's previous foray into censorship with its treatment of WikiLeaks see Here

Well, you may say, those are objectionable things. It's right there should be no under age erotica, no incest. Really? How erotic is erotic? In 'The Well of Loneliness', it was a kiss. Harry and Ginny are screwed then. Oops, sorry, they're hetero so that's okay. What about the homo-eroticism in 'Lord of the Flies'?

In any event, is censorship by organizations like paypal EVER justified, no matter what the content? Is censorship of books EVER acceptable?

I'm leaning heavily toward the 'no'. If freedom of speech becomes objective where is the road going to lead? When one group of people have the right to prevent another group writing, or reading, whatever it wants it's going to lead down a dark road, no matter how justifiable it might seem objectively

So, I happen to think Banned Books Week is an awesome idea, a way to bring the word to people that when someone is there in the background, chipping away at our rights and freedoms you - all of you - and your children are the ones who are going to pay in the end.

For more information look here


  1. The question how erotic is erotic is a good one indeed. I once showed a 25 minute cartoon of Romeo and Juliet and had a parent freak out that I was showing porn in the classroom. The scene in question was when the couple spends their first night together as a married couple. They embrace, Juliet's back is seen, and then cupid flies up into the air. From that complaint on, I then had to freeze the SmartBoard screen during that showing. I also could not show the Baz Lurhman version due to drug use and the cross-dressing Mercutio. My list goes on and on... just more reasons to not want to deal with public education any more. Though I hope that by at least posting about Banned Books Week I can still help draw attention to how the practice is still alive and well.

    1. Thank you so much for writing that article. It really hit me in the face as something important to rant about :) I HATE the idea of censuring in any form and I was furious about the whole paypal thing. I'll be jumping up and down with the rest of them next week