Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Book week, September 30 – October 6. This is the thirtieth anniversary of this event which calls attention to the effort to restrict our freedom to read what we want or more importantly to think freely and for ourselves. It is an attempt at mind-control, a way to dictate to you what you think and how you think about things that affect all of us. Banned Book Week started in 1982.

I would like to think that we have made progress but the battle never ends. Each time we succeed in ensuring access (on our library shelves, in our schools, or our bookstores) for one book, more are targeted and the battle starts all over again.

The list of books that over the years have been banned or were targeted for banning is long and includes both great works of literature and some less so. A recent One Book One Denver selection, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is on the list as is “The Great Gatsby”, “Ulysses”, “Charlotte’s Web” and “Winnie-the-Pooh”. There are books on the list that I like a lot, books, I have never read and books that I don’t like – “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand, for instance – but I will defend the right to have them read. The point is, no book should be subject to censorship; quality of writing, subject matter, the likes or dislikes of any individual are no justification for censorship.

I will defend the right of any person to read what they want regardless of how I feel about the book. I will object to the banning of “Atlas Shrugged” or “Fifty Shades of Grey” as much as I will the banning of “The Grapes of Wrath” or “Lolita”.

Speaking of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, I have not read it – and may not – but it is getting a lot of buzz and is very popular. It had been atop the New York Times Bestseller list for what seemed like forever, until J.K Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” topped it this week. “Fifty Shades of Gray” is one of the more recent targets of the censors. In recognition of that, there will be a ‘virtual read-out’ of erotic literature, dubbed “Fifty Shades of Banned” in New York City. The readout is being put together by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. If you are around Manhattan tonight and interested, here is the information.

Of course it is not just books that are banned. All forms of communication are targets of censors: films, television, websites, you name it. The mind-control battle is never over.

So, I won’t be in New York tonight, but I am going to read from a banned book on video and upload it to YouTube as part Banned Books Virtual Read-out.

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