Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week

Well, this is pathetic. I was so pleased with myself because Banned Books Week is here and I'm a big fan of banned books. But this pile of innocents is all I could find on my shelves. We still have boxes in the garage so there's hope for me yet.

You can google Banned Books and find list after list of them. It's shocking, I tell you! However, I'm coming clean. Even though I don't dare keep them on my shelves, I have read many of the books on this list:

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am the only person who doesn't like this book. I just read it again, and I don't care about anyone in it.

2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
I am the only person who hasn't read this book. I want to.

3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
I've read this. I'm sure I have. Or I saw the movie.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
I just read this for the first time! I wish I could do that again. To read a book like this for the first time is like floating down a river and enjoying the scenery while a wise and powerful guide does the rowing.

5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
I read this when it first came out. Loved it. Saw the movie and loved it, too.

6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
Nobody has read this book. Everyone says they have. My father might have read it. He had a well-worn copy.

7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Loved it.

8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
This one kind of freaked me out.

9. 1984, by George Orwell
This was already quaint when I read it in high school. At least I thought so at the time.

11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Now we're seeing the first one on the list that perhaps should be kept out of the hands of children and pedophiles. If you don't fit into either of these categories, I suggest you sit back and let Nabokov row your boat.

12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
What a gorgeous book. The play, when done well, is a thing of heartbreaking beauty. The last time I saw it was at Deaf West Theater and they were brilliant.

15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
I'm putting this on my list with Catcher in the Rye. Haven't read it. Want to.


16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

You see I could go on. I'm sure you could, too. Do you have favorites here? Are there books you'd like to ban? Should certain books be banned or not? Why or why not?


John Sandel said...

My greatest pride would be to write a book & see it banned by the culture which fears Harper Lee.

Bellis said...

How much poorer my life would have been had I not been allowed to read these banned books. I'm not sure you'll like Catcher in the Rye or any books of that genre - they were cool at the time but not so good when coming upon them now for the first time Our school teacher told us at the age of 14 not to borrow Orwell's "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" from the school library, so of course we all read it. The sex was really tame. When our daughter was 12 we tried to ban her from reading Judy Blume. I guess we were trying to keep her innocent for a few more years. I'm sure she read them anyway.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I've read some of those mentioned.. I recently read "Little Brother" which the high schools banned... One of the best stories I read... am reading the sequel "Homeland"... I proudly showcase some of the ones on your list in my bookcase... Have always gotten a kick out of shocking others/or causing a gasp.. :-)

Laura Monteros said...

There are a few books that I think should be banned...not for content, but for lousy writing.

If you've read "Slaughterhouse 5", Petrea, "Catch-22" should be easier to unravel. I liked it tremendously. I do not like "Catcher in the Rye" and I barely remember "Gatsby", I just know I didn't get it, same with "1984".

I can hardly believe "To Kill a Mockingbird" is on this list. Makes no sense.

TheChieftess said...

1. Read it in High School...didn't care all that much about it..., 2. You're not the only person who hasn't read it... 3. read it, saw the movie, loved both 4. read it many times, taught it early in my career, recently saw a brilliant stage production 5. read it, saw it, loved it 6. Huh???? 7. nope 8. read it in High School, found it fascinating 9. Also HS read...loved it and saw the similarities to the book and the cultural trends in the 70's 11. Saw the movie 12 read it loved it ...what happened to 13and 14??? 15...nope...could be one to read soon!!! As for the rest...some yes, more movies, a lot no...
And there you have literary history!!!

jmgrimes said...

Oooh - you have the Ballantine edition of Lord of the Rings! A favorite for the cover art!

Petrea Burchard said...

One thing I note is that most of these books have been best sellers. Many books have more objectionable content but they don't rate the distinction of being banned because nobody notices them.

JS, the culture which fears Harper Lee is an ignorant one indeed. I'd be happy to write something that offends them.

I never read Judy Blume, Bellis, but I'd say she was a forerunner in what we now call YA. Salinger, too, am I right?

KBF, I don't think any of these books are shocking! The one that's made almost every list is Alexie's "The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." I've read it and all I can figure is the kid swears a lot.

Hee hee, Laura, I agree on the lousy writing bit. I loved "Slaughterhouse 5," so I think I'll like "Catch-22."

Excellent history, Chieftess!
And I don't know what happened to the numbers. The list I copied lacks them, too. It's like they cheated on the "top 100" by leaving some out, hoping we wouldn't notice.

I bought it when it came out, James. The art may be why I keep it. I don't know as I'll read it again, although I found it enthralling when I was a teenager.

William Kendall said...

I think the sort of person who demands books be banned for whatever controversial reason is acting out of fear, ignorance, that sort of thing. That's why I have no regard for those who make the suggestion.

I've read a number of these books, and it doesn't surprise me that some of them persistently earn the ire of cranky puritans with no imagination.

Emily SecondVerse said...

I love how poetically you describe your experience of reading "To Kill a Mockingbird".
I've ready many of these books. I found that of all of them, "1984" haunts me to this day. I first read it in seventh grade and I remember that I had a hard time sleeping for a week after I finished it. I had become so immersed in the book that it had started to feel real to me. At the time (1990) I couldn't fathom how things would change and how some of what Orwell wrote about seems to be coming to pass.

Petrea Burchard said...

"...cranky puritans with no imagination..." William, I'm going to steal that.

Hi Emily, welcome. I think I know the haunting feeling you describe. The ones I lost sleep over are about people losing their humanness. "The Lord of the Flies," for example, and "In Cold Blood." I probably shouldn't have read that one, and I definitely shouldn't have seen the movie. But how can you skip Capote?

TheChieftess said...

Even in the '60's when I read 1984...I saw the trend toward Newspeak, which I think is firmly entrenched in today's society...there were many other aspects of the book that I perceived as a plausible future of our gave me the willies then... And if I read it again today... I'll bet I'd get the "willies" again!!!

Karen said...

I've read all those on your list. Yes, including Ulysses. I read it in a senior year course for English lit majors. Amazing but I could not have gotten through it without the prof, I don't think.

Dreiser was highly shocking for his time - and probably even for today. Both An American Tragedy and Sister Carrie are great reads, in the nearly vanished tradition of books with great characters and riveting plots. I need to reread both of those.

Petrea Burchard said...

English is definitely evolving, Chieftess. It always has, good or bad.

Karen, you amaze me. I know I read "Sister Carrie," for example, but I don't remember much from it except images. Most of these books were in my curriculum in high school or college, when I was too young or self-involved to get much out of them. It's a good list of classics to read again.

José Mendonça said...

I lived under a dictatorship until I was 23 yo. The list of forbidden books and authors in Portugal was endless and I have no words to describe how preposterous and revolting that was. Fortunatelly my familiy inherited many of them from my grandfather who got them before Salazar went to power, so I did a lot of "illegal" reading before the revolution took place.
No need to answer your question regarding censorship, right? :-)

altadenahiker said...

I don't think it's unusual to have read Ulysses, it's Finnegans Wake that's impossible.

Laura Monteros said...

I never checked the books my kids read, but when I did take a look at one of the Anne rice books my then-middle-school daughter was reading. I was a bit shocked, but then I thought, "She's already read them and she's still OK, so just leave it alone."

Funny thing is, SHE decides which movies are inappropriate for me, "Reservoir Dogs" being at the top of the list!

Petrea Burchard said...

No need, José. I'm glad you got to read the books anyway. It would be a grand thing to see the world free of such censorship.

I was voicing my fear of it I guess, Hiker. Though I don't know why. I loved "Dubliners."

I chose that one as inappropriate for myself as well, Laura.

Señor1989 said...

It's funny. We vote to have books banned because [insert lack of reason here]. We vote to have video games destroyed because there's a bit of violence. We vote to have movies restricted because of [again, insert lack of reason here]. Yet oddly enough, these are things we all have experienced in our lives and we turned out alright, right?

Petrea Burchard said...

I guess so, Señor1989, but I can think of a few things I wish I could unsee.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Anais Nin. Back in the 70's she was a guest lecturer at Occidental College.

Petrea Burchard said...

Did she seem terribly racy to you at the time? Or just progressive?

Banned Books come under more than one category. There are those that are banned because they are "too sexy." There are those that are banned because they are "subversive." What else? What bothers me most is that other people think they get to decide these things for me.

Book Dragon said...

I don't remember the book or the school but one parent wanted a title removed from the school library and was making a stink over it. It wasn't good enough to have it removed from the reading list, it must be removed from the school! The super sad thing was, the school was a university!

Man, now I'm going to have to look it up again.

Oh, your father bought the book used from a man who ran over it with a tractor. Instant well used copy. ;-)

It will take time to go over the list again to see which ones I've read/own, my required high school reading was not exceptional

TheChieftess said...

I must admit that my reading during periods of lot's of change in my life, (as in now) I resort to the murder mystery Michael Connelly, and recently I've started reading Elizabeth George...But I'm definitely copying your book list for future reference!!!

@PasadenaAdjacent...did you go to Occidental in the 70's???

Book Dragon said...

I love the reasons for #5 on 2013's Top 10 list . . . "unsuited to age group". The book? Fifty Shades!

So far, I've been unimpressed with the book, I'm still at the beginning but my current thought is "stalker".

Ann Erdman said...

I've always been amused that a book like "The Grapes of Wrath" has been banned because reading it might turn us into commies.

The reasons behind the banning of every book on this list are laughable.

Petrea Burchard said...

Agreed, Ann.