07 September, 2011

Read Banned Books!

Once again, it’s time for my yearly rant about support of participation in the ALA’s Banned Books Week

People who try to ban books just make me crazy. It may not seem like a big deal for some nice Christian lady in East Buttplug, Idaho to want And Tango Makes Three out of her local library because she thinks homosexuality is a sin and doesn’t want her kids to read anything that she thinks promotes a homosexual agenda*. 
It IS a big deal. Anytime people try to kill ideas and squash open communication, they are threatening the kind of freedom that makes a free country FREE. 
I want to share some sharply pointed, well-thought out arguments on why censorship sucks. The truth is that once I get all exercised about it I become a giant squid of anger (thank you John Green), thrashing around, gargling “Blub, blub, blub, CENSORSHIP NOT GOOD,” and foaming at the mouth. To hear about it from better (and calmer) people than myself, check out these links:

Anyway, I’m trying to decide what Banned Books to read. This is definitely the year to read the Gay Penguin book. I can’t believe I haven’t already read it -  I like penguins, I like gay people. There’s got to be something in And Tango Makes Three for me!
Here are my thoughts on some of the most banned “Classics”:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald  Read it. Bored by it. Can anyone explain why this would be banned? Is there really a Society to Ban Books that Bored High School Students to Tears?

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger While I personally think Holden Caufield was a self-involved twat, I know that generations of misunderstood youth felt that Holden expressed the disaffection they felt. Up with Self-Involved Teenagers!

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck This book was The Bomb! Right now it seems more topical than ever, considering the current economic conditions. The Joads always make me think of the members of my family who lived through The Great Depression. They didn’t have much, and their lives weren’t easy, but I believe they worked hard and did the best they could. 

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee This just makes me mad. A story about a family that loves each other and a brave man who stands up for what he thinks is right, what’s not to like?

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker Liked it. Yes, there are uncomfortable scenes of racism, sexism, domestic violence, and genital mutilation. The story is ultimately hopeful and positive.

Ulysses, by James Joyce *Have not read due to the fact that it looks difficult and dry.

Beloved, by Toni Morrison *Have not read because it sounded like a big downer. But I know people who LOVE it.

The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding I read this in 11th grade, and MAN, what a depressing, hopeless book. It’s probably one of the reasons that when I am depressed I am convinced that in the end the bad guys are going to win…because once you strip away social conventions and the rules that keep us in control, many people are  just dying to hurt somebody and force the rest of us to worship a pig’s head on a pole.  This is one that even though I didn’t enjoy it, I think it is a good book, and very true, and thought provoking. I can argue about it for hours. Thus proving that even sucky, depressing books shouldn’t be banned!

1984, by George Orwell  Pretty much everything I said about #8 goes for #9. Except that instead of “worship a pig’s head on a pole,” substitute “give up all independent thought and allow others to control their lives in the name of jingoistic patriotism.” 

Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov  I have tried to read it several times. I know it’s all genius-y and everything, but I got bored. I prefer my dirty books a little less cerebral, with more sexxoring between attractive characters of an appropriate age range.

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck It’s a perfect little book. Short, filled with interesting characters who seem REAL to me. I cried at the end. 

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller Has always struck me as a “dude” book. Haven’t tried to read it, but I hear it’s funny.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley   A gram is better than a damn and this book is better than 1984 if you want to read about nightmarish dystopias. 

Animal Farm, by George Orwell  Just think of how different George Orwell’s life would have been if he had ever gotten a good job and some anti-depressants! I enjoyed Animal Farm. I figure if you don’t like it, it’s because you not-so-secretly think that you are one of the animals that is more equal than the rest of us. And you more equal pig types don’t like it when people point that out.

As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner  All I can say about this is that there are people out there who worship at the altar of That Great Southern Writer, William Faulkner. Since I myself live by the vow I made at age 16 that once I finished Light in August, with God as my witness, I’d never read Faulkner again, I have no opinions about this one. Except the opinion that it shouldn’t be banned from libraries!

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston I didn’t read this for years and years, but my friend Karen said if I didn’t read it I didn’t know anything about American Lit, I dug in. A good story, well told.  No wonder it was shocking when it was written, the main character is a woman who refuses to live by the rules of the patriarchy. Also, it’s a tear-jerker.

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison Have not read because, again, it seems like it’s a big old downer. I feel guilty about that; because I hope it’s not just another example of a member of the privileged class (me) not wanting to see the artistic output of a minority author (Mr. Ellison). I promise you Mr. Ellison, that in real life I work with people of all races and national origins and try not to treat anyone as though they are beneath my notice. Even homeless people, I try to look them in the eye and acknowledge them as fellow human beings. It’s hard though, thanks for reminding me not to be complacent!

*Whatever that is.  If my gay friends have an agenda, it seems to have something to do with decorating in good taste, entertaining well, and being extremely witty.


  1. Catch 22 is one of the great books of the 20th century. It has nothing to do with 'dudes'. Genius. I loved Lord of The Flies. Couldn't put it down. You must try again. Anything by Steinbeck is worth reading. Maybe the greatest American writer ever. Brave New World and 1984 were more about ideas than stories so they never really got me going, and I loved Beloved even though Toni Morrison works on my last nerve. ..Having said that I will once again say that I am in FULL support of all Nicholas Sparks books being banned on the grounds of bad taste! And as far as Ulysses goes, I've never met anybody I liked or admired that said they really enjoyed this book, so I've still not touched it.

  2. To demonstrate my commitment to NOT banning books, I believe libraries ought to be able to have "The Bridges of Madison County" on the shelves, even if I did throw up a little when I typed that.

    Pieces of non-literature by Sparks and his ilk may not have any taste, but when was bad taste uncommon?