October 1, 2012

Banned Book Week: a go-round


It is one of the timeless truths of literature that any book worth being banned is one worth being read. Any book with something in it that could inspire indignant action from nationalists, prudes or those otherwise worried about issues of purity and besmirchment is clearly a book I’d like a look into. That’s why we love Banned Book Week here at Melville House. If you haven’t yet, take a look at some of the books from our own list that have been banned in one absurd context or another. We’re offering them all at 20% off this week.

The news is rife with issues of censorship this week as well. Here’s a brief round up of some of the more interesting pieces that caught my eye.

The Times interviews U Tint Swe, last chief government censor in Myanmar. After forty-eight years and a mountain of red pens, his office is being closed.

In Guernica, Natasha Lewis interviews Seth Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld’s recent book Subversives: the FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power is just out. The book is a look at the feds and their persecution of student free speech movements, most notably at the University of California. It draws on three hundred thousand pages of documents, the fruits of a legal battle with the FBI that brought Rosenfeld’s suit all the way to the Supreme Court.

Jessa Crispin talks to Robie H. Harris, author of It’s Perfectly Normal, a picture book about tolerance and not repressing your urges so deeply that you become a glassy-coiffed republican congressman with sixteen red power ties and a habit of paying your male escorts in pharmaceuticals.  The book remains among those most frequently banned from libraries.

At Lapham’s Quarterly, a review of a new biography of Savonarola by Donald Weinstein. Savonarola was a Medici-era prophet who held sway in Florence for years. He was himself a burner of books, though he later repented of his heresies under torture — twice.

A bit more subtle than censorship, but Ange Mlinko has a long piece in the Poetry Foundation’s ongoing look at their magazine, in this case at the results of editing (and on neglecting punctuation preferences because of typesetting costs) in the work of poet May Swenson.




Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.