Thursday, September 11, 2008

illicit pleasures

What have Lolita, The Origin of Species, and The Satanic Verses got in common?

The answer is, they have all been banned somewhere. Wikipedia has a list of banned books.

Borders is being subversive and offering 40% off banned books at the moment. The list is fascinating.
The main reason things seem to be banned is either because they are politically subversive or sexually explicit, except The Origin of Species, which is presumably banned in creationist states of the US, or something.

They missed out the Harry Potter books, but I suppose those aren't actually banned by any legislatures, only by certain schools and libraries. Things used to get banned for being religiously subversive, such as Steganographia by Johannes Trithemius and Picatrix or Ghayat al Hakim, but they seem to have ignored that category - maybe because now you can get them as free e-texts online. Picatrix was allegedly one of the books that Casanova was imprisoned for possessing. The Index of books prohibited by the Catholic Church was abolished in 1966.

What these people don't realise is the psychology of the thing. The minute I hear that a book or film has been banned, or that someone somewhere doesn't want me to read or see it, it makes me want to go out and read it or see it. For instance, I had no plans to go and see The Last Temptation of Christ. Yawn, I thought, yet another film about Jesus. But as soon as I heard that it was controversial and people wanted it banned, it made me want to go and see it. I didn't see it in the end (apathy set in), but it illustrates how stupid it is to try and ban things. Notice how I thought several of the books listed above were actually quite boring - they would probably have sunk without trace if they hadn't been banned, but I expect the fact they were banned made them instant best-sellers (a bit like Spycatcher, which I bought in Germany because there was a court order against it being published in the UK, but that turned out to be rather boring).

6 comments:

seithman said...

I tend to agree with you about the psychology of banning books. I think it's especially true if you're banning books that are politically subversive. I mean, seriously, if you tell someone who is drawn to politically subversive thought that the political establishment forbids them frorm reading a certain book, what do you think that person is going to do? My thoughts would be that they'd probably do the politically subversive thing by disobeying the establishment and reading the book at the first opportunity.

Bo said...

Last Temptation only worth it for the stunning Peter Gabriel soundtrack. Otherwise pointless.

Yvonne said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll just buy the soundtrack then.

Steve Hayes said...

I've read many of those. I'm reading Ulysses at the moment. One I didn't see on the list was The Dharma bums by Jack Kerouac.

Yvonne said...

I don't think it is a definitive list....

The Scylding said...

I've only read 3 of them - Orwell & Solzhenitsyn. Potter I enjoyed.

But you touched on something - the greater problem is apathy. In the materialistic environment of today, especially with the younger 20-somethings, banning or not banning is not an issue. What is really sad, and horrible, is that they couldn't be bothered. And it is really worrying - as a preacher I heard in my childhood used to say, it is easier to cool down a fanatic than to warm up a corpse.