Happy Banned Books Week!

Or maybe I should say Unhappy Banned Books Week. The American Library Association uses this week to draw attention to books that have been banned or “challenged.”

My favorite is the list of classics. Of course I knew before looking that Joyce’s Ulysses would be on the list. I can almost guarantee that not one of the people who objected has read so much as the first page. Ditto Lolita, which I’m betting not one in thirty Americans has read.

I also understand but do not agree with the attempts to ban books with strong social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath; the fourth most challenged in 2009, To Kill a Mockingbird; and The Color Purple, the ninth most challenged.

Some of the others on the classics list left me scratching my head. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton contains almost no action, an altogether boring story about a passel of boring people. There’s a hint of divorce, a hint of adultery and that’s it. Might as well ban Pride and Prejudice.

A couple of shockers on the list sent me hurrying for The Reader’s Encyclopedia. Alas, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White didn’t merit a separate entry. But I remember clearly the wonderful tale of Fern and Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider. What sort of unimaginative curmudgeon could object?

Another complete puzzle: Winnie-the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh??!! Did people not want their kids to learn about taking risks and having fun and learning to cooperate? Maybe they were upset that Eeyore was depressed.

The biggest shocker of all might be A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I mean really! The stories of Arthur and Ford and Zaphod make no sense, though they are laugh-out-loud funny.  How could anyone object to books that gave us the Babelfish?

What surprised me was the omission of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – but it does appear on the list of top banned/challenged books of the past 20 years. And guess what’s at the top of the most recent decade and in the top fifty for 1990-1999? The Harry Potter series. That’s right, can’t have the little impressionable minds corrupted by magic.

I noted that I’ve used more than a month’s quota of exclamation points in this entry. Maybe it displays my passion but Punctuation Day ended the day before Banned Books Week started, so I’ll have to go for several weeks without using one.

Here’s to the First Amendment!


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