Thursday, October 1, 2009

banned books week

As some of you may of may not be aware, this week is Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is my absolute favorite time to rant about the ridiculous traditions of my society... specifically "why in the bloody world is this book banned?!" So, without any further to do, I'm going to go through the banned books list and provide a little information on the books I've read, and my personal insight on the choice to ban. Book descriptions come from because I'm lazy, and reason banned comes from Banned and ILA because that's where my information is.

1.) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Year Banned: 1984 || Where: United States of America (Illinois)

Book description/review: "Hilariously picaresque, epic in scope, alive with the poetry and vigor of the American people, Mark Twain's story about a young boy and his journey down the Mississippi was the first great novel to speak in a truly American voice. Influencing subsequent generations of writers -- from Sherwood Anderson to Twain's fellow Missourian, T.S. Eliot, from Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner to J.D. Salinger -- "Huckleberry Finn, like the river which flows through its pages, is one of the great sources which nourished and still nourishes the literature of America."

Reason Banned: "The word "nigger," which appears many times in the novel, was the cause for the removal of this classic from an eighth-grade reading list. In the 1950s, the NAACP objected to the book's perceived racist tone. In 1984, the book was removed from a public high school reading list in Waukegan, Illinois, because a black alderman found the book's language offensive."

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of the most difficult books for me to read in high school. Twain's story was clever and intriguing, but the language was from another century and takes that extra level of concentration to understand. This must be remembered when reading the book, as the word "nigger" was acceptable during the period the book was written, and is not a reflection of modern times. As a note, some furniture in China is labelled 'nigger brown' and nobody is suing them.


2.) American Heritage Dictionary.
Year Banned: 1978 || Where: United States of America (Missouri)

Book description/review: It's a dictionary. You don't need a summary.

Reason Banned: "In 1978, an Eldon, Missouri library banned the dictionary because it contained 39 'objectionable' words. And, in 1987, the Anchorage School Board banned the dictionary for similar reasons, i.e., having slang definitions for words such as 'bed,' 'knocker,' and 'balls.' "

Excuse me while I search for a crowbar to bludgeon this moron with.


3.) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Year Banned: practically the day it came out || Where: United States of America (a little bit of everywhere)

Book description/review: "Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins, "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them." His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation."

Reason Banned: "This is a perennial favorite of censors and has been banned in the U.S. and Australia. In 1960, a Tulsa, OK teacher was fired for putting the book on the 11th grade reading list. The teacher was reinstated, but the book was permanently removed from teaching programs. A Minnesota high school administration was attacked for allowing the book in the school library. "

So, essentially, reason it was banned... we don't really know. Other than the fact that people don't like it. Personally, I think it has something to do with the elementary school bathroom having 'fuck' written on the walls. Or maybe Holden's womanizing. But in a world where just about every high school freshman is sexually experienced and kindergartners are fluent in curse words, why is this high-school-reading-level book still banned, exactly?


4.) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Year Banned: 1998 || Where: United States of America (Mississippi)

Book description/review: "Nowadays firemen start fires. Fireman Guy Montag loves to rush to a fire and watch books burn up. Then he met a seventeen-year old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid, and a professor who told him of a future where people could think. And Guy Montag knew what he had to do...."

Reason Banned: "This book is about censorship and those who ban books for fear of creating too much individualism and independent thought. In late 1998, this book was removed from the required reading list of the West Marion High School in Foxworth, Mississippi. A parent complained of the use of the words "God damn" in the book. Subsequently, the superintendent instructed the the teacher to remove the book from the required reading list. "

This is one of my favorite ironies in the world. Fahrenheit 451 is about burning books that the government doesn't approve of (which is all books, by the way). Isn't it funny that a book about a man who is trying to rescue books from being burned is on the banned books list? ... And because there's a swear in it? It's almost as though someone was looking for a reason to get it on the list.


5.) Lysistrata by Aristophanes

Year Banned: no clue... but the ban was lifted in 1993 || Where: United States of America (all of it)

Book description/review: I'm going to write this myself. Basically, the women of Athens and Sparta are tired of the men always being off to war and only coming home for sex, so they go on a sex strike and take over the government. Very funny.

Reason Banned: See "book description/review".

Read this play. With your friends. Out loud. Now.


6.) The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

Year Banned: 2008 || Where: United States of America (New York)

Book description/review: "In the future, in a place called Satelite City, fourteen-year-old Cosmo Hill enters the world, unwanted by his parents. He's sent to the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys, Freight class. At Clarissa Frayne, the boys are put to work by the state, testing highly dangerous products. At the end of most days, they are covered with burns, bruises, and sores. Cosmo realizes that if he doesn't escape, he will die at this so-called orphanage. When the moment finally comes, Cosmo seizes his chance and breaks out with the help of the Supernaturalists, a motley crew of kids who all have the same special ability as Cosmo-they can see supernatural Parasites, creatures that feed on the life force of humans. The Supernaturalists patrol the city at night, hunting the Parasites in hopes of saving what's left of humanity in Satellite City. Or so they think. The Supernaturalists soon find themselves caught in a web far more complicated than they'd imagined, when they discover a horrifying secret that will force them to question everything they believe in. Eoin Colfer has created an eerie and captivating world-part Blade Runner, part futuristic Dickens-replete with non-stop action."

Reason Banned: "Restored by the Lackawanna, N.Y. School Board (2008) along with several other books following accusations of censorship by some parents and teachers. The books were pulled from the middle school library recommended list because of concerns that the books deal with the occult."

...? ... ... ??? *insert question marks and ellipses for a couple pages* I've read this book more times than I have digits to count with (that means more than twenty, for the anatomically inept). I'm still trying to figure out how it relates to the occult. Magic, maybe? Geez, I'd think if it had to get banned, the reason would be for gangs... since there are a couple pathetic games. Oh, and a drag race. Some shooting. People die. But the occult? ... ??? . . . . ??????


7.) Grendel by John C. Garner

Year Banned: 2008 || Where: United States of America (Oregon)

Book description/review: "The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic BEOWULF, tells his side of the story."

Reason banned: "Retained in the Sherwood, Oreg., School District sophomore honors English reading list (2008) after concerns were expressed about some of the novel’s scenes describing torture and mutilation."

I feel as though this would be a good time to note all those movies kids these days watch where peoples' hearts get torn out and their brains spill on to the floor. Note: I despised this book. It just wasn't my thing. I found it boring. But wait- isn't violence supposed to be entertaining in modern media? I guess the torture scenes in Grendel weren't that good, because I was not amused.


8.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Year Banned: 1977+ || Where: United States of America (everywhere)

Book description/review: "Lawyer Atticus Finch defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic, Puliter Prize-winning novel--a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. Through the eyes of Atticus's children, Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unanswering honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930's."

Reason banned: Swearing. Racism. Sexism. Rape. Drinking. You name it, this book has been banned for it. Probably.

This is a Pulitzer prize winner, which seems to imply that somebody somewhere thought it was awesomesauce. I dunno. Maybe it's just me who thinks that. I have a lot of fond memories of this book and tenth grade English. Most particularly drawings of Scout in her ham costume. Which have nothing to do with my defense of this book. I don't know. This book has racism, yes... by Atticus' entire role is to fight racism. So without the racism... there's no fighting. Atticus would never have been the defense attorney, because anybody would've been willing to take the case, and it would have been a normal every day book without a Pulitzer prize. As for everything else, all I can do is continue to feebly wave my hand at television and film.


9.) The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer.
Year Banned: 2008 || Where: United States of America (California)

Book description/review: Unnecessary. There are vampires. They sparkle. There are werewolves. They don't sparkle. Bella finds herself torn between the two, and fantasy-ridden drama and angst ensues.

Reason banned: *gasp* Ish pornographic?

You may notice not only am I becoming more sarcastic the further down I venture, but I am also not a fan of this series. This is true. I do not intend to read it but I have to say... they're banning the whole series based on one of the books (Breaking Dawn), and they're reasoning is... ... stretching it. That's just silly. And I've seen more pornographic things in school libraries. Like... Monet! And da Vinci and stuff. Seriously.


10.) The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Year Banned: since the day it came out. || Where: United States of America. Probably other places, too.

Book description/review: Boy wizard does magic, bad guy causes trouble, things sparkle, boys get girls, good guy dies, bad guy dies, happily ever after.


See, Twlight fans, it wasn't personal, I love the Potter books and I'm still beign sarcastic. *ahem* Now 'scuse me, I have another use for that crowbar. *finds crazed screaming people and bashes them over the head shouting a convential description of the fantasy genre*


That's all I'm going to post for now. Ten's enough, and I have to go to class soon. I seriously encourage people to Google "list of banned books" and see how many you've read and formulate your own opinions. There are loads (like, thousands, probably) that I haven't even listed. Practically all of Jodi Picoult's books (love her!) are banned, Phillip Pullmans His Dark Materials, something called "The Book of Bunny Suicides" which apparently is a lot of cartoons of rabbits killing themselves that I may have to look for just to confirm its existance, Alice Sebould's The Lovely Bones, Jonathan Stroud's Bartimeus Series which I firmly advise anyone who enjoys Terry Pratchett or J.K. Rowling to read. Seriously, I could go on and on. So much Shakespeare.

Yeah. Look it up. I want to hear other people's opinions. I'll even give you a couple more links with lists!

All-Powerful Wikipedia
Banned Books Online ... usually as accurate as Wikipedia but gives us that warm, AskJeeves feeling.
Some Random Person's Blog with a Good List

Now if you don't take a peek and get properly enraged, you're just lazy and indifferent.

{ listening to: typing keys || mood: adequately ranty}

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