Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Banned Books Week: Open a book, open a mind

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."
~ Thomas Jefferson

The Boston Public Library's Bates Hall, 1896
Banned Books Week 2011 starts today, September 24. While some of us champion freedom, the intolerant are always on the hunt for new ways to curtail it, never recognizing the absurdity of their efforts. As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”

One of the sponsors of Banned Books Week, the American Library Association (ALA), has a calendar of events including a virtual read-out on YouTube. The ALA's site also includes lists and statistics about the most frequently challenged books and authors. One mind-boggling example: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World — published in 1932 — is one of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2010.

While the desire to censor may not change, circumstances do. Today's prospective book banners, book burners, political demagogues, religious fanatics and simple megalomaniacs will find that, thanks to digital communications, thoughts are harder than ever to control.

“All books can be indecent books, though recent books are bolder.
For filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder.
When correctly viewed, everything is lewd.
I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
And the Wizard of OZ, there's a dirty old man!”
~ Tom Lehrer
New York Public Library reading room

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