Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Checking out the sexy side of Banned Books Week

Once again, we open the page to Banned Books Week,where our freedom to read is cherished by examining the past and present attempts to restrict our library liberties.

This year, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on a particular theme that keeps many people all too interested in yanking books off of shelves,sex.

 No doubt, the first titles that come to mind here are the notorious ones such as Fifty Shades of Grey(which has been challenged) but you might be surprised to see such notable and well respected(not to mention award winning )books such as Beloved by Toni Morrison,The Kite Runner by Kaled Hosseini and Orwell's 1984 be considered as just as brown wrapper cover worthy.

 According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the majority of calls to restrict certain books between 2000-2009, were due to charges of "sexually explicit" material. Mind you,some of these titles.like Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, have no form of love scene whatsoever but for some,the mere mention of something sexual like adultery just causes them to shudder in their repressive boots.

While there are plenty of passionate novels under fire in this category,let's take a gander at three in particular that are far more challenging to the mind than the lower regions of the body to see what is really troubling the censors:

LOLITA: This 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov has stirred many an ire since it's original publication and while it's been turned into two films,a couple of stage plays(one of which was a musical that closed before it officially opened) and even an opera, yet it is still a very misunderstood story.

This insight into the deluded mind of Humbert Humbert,who thinks that his obsession with young Delores Haze(known only to him as "Lolita) is true love, is a strong metaphor for the controlling forces that seek to oppress women in many societies.

 Debate still rages on about who is the true victim of the story but you could argue that both Humbert and his Lolita are caught in a mutual trap perpetuated by the social double standards applied to male/female relationships,along with the upper hand given to older men in their pursuit of much younger women.

It was even a focal point for a secret course on literature for young women held in Iran(if you haven't read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, I urge you to do so.) and still seen as a fine example of how the dark side of sexuality can be easily overlooked by it's seemingly mundane appearance:

 LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER:  The title alone has become an instant go-to for those expecting a wild romp in the literary hay and with it's having been banned in numerous countries such as Australia ,Canada,Japan and England(where it was the headliner of an obscenity trial in 1959), you can see how such a reputation was maintained.

However, those who finally obtained a copy might have been slightly disappointed at the contents. While there are plenty of steamy for the time period scenes, the major themes of the novel were more about the connection between mental and physical completeness of person(along with class struggles and social mores) than wanton displays of amorous affection

No doubt,the women who did read it found more that they expected to find between the covers and maybe in some ways,it pushed the women's movement a few steps forward:

ULYSSES: This is the one novel in this category that truly needs no introduction,yet it's history is worth repeating. Privately published in Paris of 1922 by Sylvia Beach,the legendary owner of Shakespeare and Company, this lengthy exploration of a day in the life of several interconnected characters  riled up authorities in several countries enough to seize any editions imported to their shores.

Many lawsuits later,the book is held today as James Joyce's masterpiece and fans of this iconic work celebrate Bloomsday(June 16,with the pivotal character of Leopold Bloom as it's namesake) in honor of the author's legacy. The book is rather complex,requiring a few other books to help understand all of it's far flung references as well as it's better known ones to Homer's  epic poem The Odyssey.

It is one of those books that folks are always meaning to get to(I know it's on my ultimate must read list) and anyone flipping through it in search of cheap thrills would be better off elsewhere. The emotional resonance of such characters as Molly Bloom are what make this turbulent tale an artistic shore for readers to want to reach and take port in:

Banned Books Week began yesterday and continues until September 28. I will be doing a couple of other related posts on this topic this week,including my take on Erica Jong's infamous Fear of Flying which will be celebrating it's fortieth anniversary in October. If you choose to read a banned book this week, I hope that it will be entertaining as well as enlightening,in more ways than one:


Thaddeus said...

Nice post! I still recall my sophomore year high school English class in which two of the school staff described buying The Catcher in the Rye in the same way people get porn mags at newsstands.

I also recall being incensed at hearing that some 1980's American parents were objecting to Little Red Riding Hood on the grounds that an underage girl is made to carry - not drink - wine for her grandma.

And, of course, you have attempted Harry Potter bans on the ludicrous grounds that it "promotes witchcraft" (someone's been reading the Old Testament too much, me thinks) as well as "ignoring authority figures."

No matter what, people who are scared by the contents of books are uneducated jackasses and serve little purpose other than to retard social progress. Unless it's the book from The Evil Dead 1 & 2, but that's just common sense...

lady t said...

I remember that Red Riding Hood business,what a joke!

Just the other day, I saw an article about children's books being banned for such things as talking animals(Charlotte's Web) and one with two bunnies getting married. Why would a bunny wedding be upsetting, you ask? Well, one bunny had black fur and the other one was white,which is as a ridiculous objection as the one for And Tango Makes Three(gay penguins,it's nature,people!).

I do agree that any Book of the Dead,whether you find it in a cabin in the woods or under a hidden city next to a mummy,is better off left untouched:)