Tuesday, April 23, 2013

World Book Day

To-day (23 April) is St. George's Day, it is connected to both as a date of death to Cervantes, and to Shakespeare. It was begun by booksellers in Spain in 1923, and then expanded by the United Nations in 1995. Alcalá de Henares is Cervantes birthplace and there is a public reading of the world's first novel, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha 1605, on this day there.

It is better to note than Banned Book Week which begins at the end of September. American librarians began this in 1982, rightly to protest censorship. World Book Day is a celebration, while the other is a warning against the dystopia of 1984, and Fahrenheit 451.

Generally it is either important or popular novels that are banned in America. The syllabus of books studied in high school and college literature classes are virtually identical. At different times, different books, for different reasons are objected to. Being absolute crap, like Ayn Rand has not been a reason. Recently a Republican legislator in Idaho wanted one of her doorstops mandatory.

Often it is the idea wants to be censored, especially if is true and, therefore, embarrassing or against controlling economic (or political interest).  Uncle Tom's Cabin 1852 was anti-slavery. The Grapes of Wrath 1939 showed the plight of internal, agricultural, migrant workers. The land magnates, and their stooges burned the book, and banned the book in their part of California. J. Edgar Hoover made sure the FBI and the IRS would always harass the author. Eleanor Roosevelt praised the book, Hollywood made a big movie of it, Steinbeck was awarded Pulitzer and Nobel. That Steinbeck book, and more so Of Mice and Men are routinely threatened to-day.
 “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill the Mockingbird show the inhumanity shown to slaves and blacks. This is why they were objected to. Yet, now they are objected to over the use of one word, 'nigger'. It is almost a clever way aimed to prevent an appreciation of truth and humanity by directing one to a red herring of a now taboo word.

Some instances are tellingly, dangerously stupid; others are just stupid. Senator Joseph McCarthy had copies of an anthology that included Thoreau's Civil Disobedience removed from US libraries out side the country. Department of War during WWI had pacifist books removed from libraries. More recently, Little Red Riding Hood was banned because she had a wine bottle in her basket. Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice has been banned as anti-Semitic.

So, go read a damn good book [do not read trash, it is a waste of valuable time], and tell to others of good books to read.

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