Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned and burned classics of the 20th century

Banned Books Week of 2010 is winding down, so I visited the American Library Association for more information on the subject and came across this title: Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. What an interesting and diverse group of books it is.

As I read over the list and the reasons that the books had been banned and, in some cases, burned, it became obvious that most of the bannings - though not all - had to do with sex. Even in the 20th century we still just didn't know how to handle that little three-letter word and all its implicitness and explicitness. In second place seemed to be offensive language or concerns about the way religion was handled.

But some of the bannings were truly mystifying. For example, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, which I loved as a teenager, was banned in Italy and Yugoslavia in 1929 and was burned in Nazi bonfires in 1933! I'm not sure what it was about the story of the dog, Buck, that engendered such passions. And The Lord of the Rings, along with other J.R.R. Tolkien books, was burned in Alamagordo, New Mexico, of all places, in 2001 because the parishioners at Christ Community Church thought it was satanic. That would have come as a severe shock to that staunch Christian, Tolkien.

Here, then, is the list published by the ALA of the most frequently banned or challenged 20th century classics. I've highlighted the ones I've actually read. Obviously, I've got my work cut out to get through the rest of the list.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
Ulysses - James Joyce
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies - William Golding
1984 - George Orwell
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm - George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Native Son - Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut (I'm actually embarrassed to admit I haven't read this one.)
For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild - Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
Sophie's Choice - William Styron
Sons and Lovers - D.H. Lawrence
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace - John Knowles
Naked Lunch - William S. Burroughs
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh (Although I haven't read it, I was mesmerized by the excellent PBS series based on the book, so I've always felt as though I've read it.)
Women in Love - D.H. Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run - John Updike

By this tally, it seems the most banned authors of the last one hundred years were D.H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway! Who would have thunk it?

So there you have it - the most hated and feared books of the last century. What's stopping you? Get to reading!

2 comments:

  1. At 23 titles, you're well ahead of me. I've only read nine books on this list: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lolita, Animal Farm, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Slaughterhouse Five, The Call of the Wild, The Lord of the Rings, Cat's Cradle, and Rabbit, Run. I have quite a ways to go.

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  2. Well, I've had a lot more time to work at it than you, Sarah. I have no doubt that you'll get there.

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