“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive…” with this book in hand.
As some of you probably know, this week was the celebration of Banned Books, a mark of the freedom to read, probably not followed by any–except maybe us geeky librarians who enjoy all things book, and historical, and book burning historical, for that matter.
The celebration, kicked off in 1982, began as a response to the heightened number of books being challenged in schools, and despite what many may believe, books are challenged on a daily basis here in America, and most likely abroad. The American Library Association, which tracks book challenges, claims in 2007 alone, more than 400 books were asked to be removed from the shelves of our libraries.
The goal of Banned Books Week is to highlight the need for intellectual freedom, and the rampant problems of censorship that continue to occur in society today. What’s more, it’s a chance to open up dialogue about societal trends throughout history–and what better way than to use books often believed to be “rife” with “sexual perversion or explicit sexual experience”, “violence”, and “filthy language”.
Why mention this as Banned Books week concludes? Welp, because while I never enjoy doing “trendy” things such as this, for some reason this week I decided to pick up a banned book I’ve read in haste before, Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”. As an avid reader, I highly recommend any of Henry Miller’s works, but particularly, I feel everyone should read “Tropic of Cancer”, even if it may, at times, shock you.
Originally published in France in 1934, Miller’s autobiographical novel about an ex-pat living in Paris–and his trials as an impoverished writer who finds bizarre fascination with female sexuality. The first in a trilogy fo similar-minded autobiographical novels, Miller’s book was not published in American until 1961, after being tagged “obscene” for its frank descriptions of sex. Yet while it is at times overtly sexual and a rambling stream of consciousness, it is filled with philosophical insights and relations of living outside societies moral and social norms–a truly remarkable piece of work, in my opinion.
Plus, who doesn’t want to read a book that challenged all of America’s pornography laws in the 1960s, I ask? My beloved George Orwell even deemed it “the most important novel of the 1930s”, and if he’s waxing approval, I’m gobbling up no matter.
Time Magazine listed it as one of the Best 100 Books published betwixt 1923 to 2005, and in honor of Banned Books Week, geeky librarianship, monumental modern literature, pleasure reading, and my voracious love for all things book, I urge you to pick up this book and get lost for awhile.
For a list of the Top-10 Most Challenged Books in America, which includes such classics as Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”, then by all means check out the ALA’s lists, explanations, and discussions.
File Under: Getting Lost in a book all weekend when I should be writing a paper and nursing current ailments seems good to me.