Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I do not live in the USA, but freedom of speech and expression is equally important in the EU. Banned Books Week was brought to my attention via Twitter by some of my fellow tweeps.
My goal was to read books that are or once were banned. The books I read during the Banned Books Week of 2010 (September 25 – October 2) are:
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
- Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
Lady Chatterley’s Lover has been (temporarily) banned in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, and India for violation of obscenity laws. The book starts good with the observations by Lady Chatterley of the discussions between her crippled husband and his guests on mind and body, relationships, intellect, classes, … Amusing at first, it becomes rather boring even during the first half of the book. Her longing for a child, her love affair, and her trip to Venice didn’t make me change my opinion. You don’t really get to know the characters and the book provides little context for the period just after the first world war in the UK, a period of which I know very little.
Fanny Hil or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure was banned in the U.S.A in 1821 for obscenity, then again in 1963. First published in 1748 in England, it is considered the first pornography novel. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history, and a synonym for obscenity. I am not familiar with the genre, but I think a better 21st century description would be an erotic novel. I think John Cleland deserves an award for writing a pornographic novel without ever using an obscene or vulgar word.
The story can be summarized as follows: once upon a time a young women went to the big city, to support herself she had to work as a woman of pleasure, she was very good at it and got rich, she found back her first love, and they lived long and happily ever after. It has all the ingredients of a fairy tale, but not one you will see on the Disney channel.
The characters, context and story are better than in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, making John Cleland a better writer than D.H. Lawrence in my opinion.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the most entertaining read of the three. The genre is called literary nonsense and the first chapters of the book were really promising. Alas, contrary to writers like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett who are able to maintain a high level of fun, entertainment, sarcasm, humor and wit throughout their books, Lewis Carrol can’t keep it up. The quality of the story varies between funny and boring, amusing and dull.
The book is/was (?) banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. Duh?
for Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
for Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland
for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
All three books are freely available for download. I am looking forward to next year’s banned books week. On my shortlist are Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
|She had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison”,
it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.