Thursday, September 23, 2010

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read -- c.anne.gardner

September 25 - October 2, 2010

From the Website: Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

Now those of you who know me know that I am adamantly opposed to censorship, especially when it comes to the arts. But like I said last week, being offended seems to be everyone's favourite hobby these days, one where people feel it's their god-given right to foist their personal dogma on others. I am all about being your own person, and one personal freedom we have is the freedom to develop our own moral identity, and each person’s is as individual as the next person's. We have the right to be individuals, think for ourselves, and the personal principles we develop over time and choose to live our lives by belong to us, kind of like intellectual property. We can share them, of course, but we have no right to force them on others by means of coercion or otherwise. And if I might throw in a little conjecture here, how would we know that our moral identity is true and right for us if there were nothing in the world to challenge it? We wouldn't know, of course: we would all still be thinking the world was flat, and I am certain some people would agree that a blind consensus on that matter would have been a good thing.

Anyway, my point being is that it's banned books week next week, and although I tend to read challenging literature all of the time -- I think I own everything the Marquis de Sade has ever written that is out in print -- I might revisit a few favourites next week, in particular: Animal Farm by George Orwell. I picked up the 50th illustrated anniversary edition while I was on vacation last month. It's an absolutely gorgeous edition with over 100 black and white and colour illustrations by the world renowned Ralph Steadman. He did illustrations for some of Hunter S. Thompson's work. So why Animal Farm you ask? It was the first novella I ever read. I fell in love with the form right then and there, and it changed the way I felt about literature. I think I was in 8th grade at the time and had this idea in my head that literature had to be thick. All the stuff my father had me read was thick, so what's a kid to do when you really don't know any better?

So my question this week is: Should you get time to revisit a banned book next week, what book would it be -- an old classic or something new?

Cheryl Anne Gardner


Jim Murdoch said...

I would make a similar choice to yours, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which was, of course, banned in Russia. It was the first book I bought after leaving school and I have read it roughly every ten years since then. As my experience of the world has grown so has my appreciation of the book. I still own that copy. It cost 35p new. That would be about 55¢.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I love that book. And yes, I find that certain peices of literature change in my mind over time, as in how I interpret them. Alice in Wonderland is one of my return to books.

And I too still have the first book I ever purchased with my own money. I was 11 years old, and I bought Stoker's Dracula from the BookMobile. They didn't want to sell it to me because the print was too small and they didn't think I would undertsand it. Well, I pitched a fit and bought it anyway. I think I paid about the same. I still have the tatty thing, but now I keep it in an airtight container.

rjkeller said...

I've been reading the Harry Potter books for the first time (my mommy is making me), and they've been banned all over the place. I think I'll just continue through BBW.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Everyone says they are great RJ, but I have trouble getting into YA books. I miss my "adult" situations too much.

rjkeller said...

It's good, escapist fun, which is what I need after being immersed in the sad, heavy stuff I've been writing lately. They're well written, too, although Rowling suffers from a bit of an adjective addiction.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I love adverb and adjective addiction. Adams was like that too.