OPINION: Banning Books — Who Is Qualified?
MIKE VINSON, Special to the Courier
Sunday, September 19, 2010 7:07 am
Concerning a book being “banned” from libraries and bookstores, I think about something that is outlandishly out of order, so wrong that the “wrong” can’t be denied.
I recall the predicament of British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie and his novel “The Satanic Verses,” back in the late ’80s to early ’90s.
Apparently, Muslims from around the world took great offense to what Rushdie wrote in “The Satanic Verses,” to the extent that the Supreme Leader of Iran, one Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a death threat against Rushdie, forcing him into hiding.
Since I never have read “The Satanic Verses,” I can’t comment on its contents, one way or the other. However, here’s something similar that I can offer a comment on.
In a recent issue of AARP magazine, there was an interesting piece that said: “Over the years, communities around the country have banned many classic works of literature. As part of the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 2), libraries and bookstores are urging these same communities to stand up against censorship.”
The article went on to give “a list of 50 books that have been banned at one time or another somewhere in the U.S.”
I’ll touch on a few with which I am familiar:
• “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Granted, this mainstay of American literature always has managed to generate controversy. However, what surprised me most, here, was that it wasn’t banned for being Socially Offensive (another category), given that it contains language that some construe as being racially offensive.
• “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell
One of my all-time favorite books. A humorous, political allegory about animals attempting to overthrow humans. Who can ever forget “Napoleon,” the brainy pig who leads the coup against the humans? Not only is the banishment of this book borderline ludicrous, in my view, it should be compulsory reading for all high school students.
Too Much Sex
• “Jaws,” by Peter Benchley
The one that grabbed my attention is this category was Jaws, by Peter Benchley. Sure, there are images of bikini-clad babes smooching with swaggering dudes, but, overall, pretty tame stuff. I mean, Madonna’s book “Sex” didn’t make this list.
• Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
Along with Rowling’s Harry Potter series being one of the most successful in the history of fiction writing, it, also, has spawned a whole new genre of interest. To ban it could adversely affect the mental and emotional well being of the world’s adolescent population.
• “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” by Benjamin Franklin
A “Founding Father” of the United States; publisher of “Poor Richard’s Alamanac” and the Pennsylvania Gazette; governor of Pennsylvania; inventor extraordinaire, etc. I didn’t see shock-jock Howard Stern’s autobiography “Private Parts” on this list. Give me a break!
• “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Though it remains one of the great works of American literature – at least, in the opinion of many scholars – it, too, has come under fire for allegedly being racially offensive.
While it is prudent to guard against material that, obviously, is “inappropriate,” it, also, is intellectually inappropriate to sweep historical reality under the rug. In my opinion, books such as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” are realistic takes on life in America during the relevant time frames.
If “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is “socially offensive,” what about the “Autobiography of Malcom X,” by noted author Alex Haley?
Don’t want to touch that, do you?
Concerning that AARP article that listed the “50 books that have been banned at one time or another,” I found it, for the most part, to be a hodge-podge of thin-skinned, political-social-correct-literary ineptness. (And I tend to enjoy AARP.)
Regarding certain books being banned from libraries and bookstores, maybe, someone should lobby to “ban” those who do the banning.
My opinion, that’s all.
Mike Vinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.