JESUSLAND—For those who didn't know, this week is Banned Books Week; it started last Sunday and winds up this Saturday, October 6, with a special event on Thursday, October 4, devoted to readings by adult-oriented authors and performers of sexually oriented works, to be held at the 2A Bar, located at 25 Avenue A at East Second Street at 8 p.m.
Highlighting the event will be some familiar names, including Lisa Ann, star of Hustler's "Serra Paylin" series, reading from Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James; longtime Penthouse editor Lainie Speiser, reading from Charles Bukowski's Tales of Ordinary Madness; leading Linda Lovelace expert Eric Danville, reading from Lovelace's autobiography Inside Linda Lovelace; Robert Rosen, author of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, reading selections from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye; and former madam Kristin Davis (not the Sex and the City actress), reading ... Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?
Yep, even that Lewis Carroll classic has been banned over the years from various schools and other institutions around the country, usually because it deals in part with magic, a major bugaboo for some religious leaders who hope to shield their kids from any intimation that there might be supernatural powers affecting their lives—aside from their own God, that is.
But Alice is among the least of the censors' concerns. Sure, everyone's heard of conservatives banning the profanity/vulgarity-laced Catcher in the Rye, Joseph Heller's dark wartime comedy Catch-22, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and (of course) Valdimir Nabokov's Lolita, but what about George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm? What about Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle? Aldous Huxley's Brave New World? John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men? All of those are among the most frequently banned classics ever to grace a bookshelf!
The American Library Association (ALA)—you remember them; they were the original plaintiff in the very first lawsuit against the federal recordkeeping and labeling law, 18 U.S.C. §2257—keeps track of who's banning what book, and in the decade between 2000 and 2009, the list of the 100 most banned and officially challenged books in the U.S. includes, besides several of those named above, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (which is about burning books!), L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, and a couple of perennial favorites, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The simple fact is, in many areas of the country, local politicians, school board members, community leaders, school principals and clergy simply think they know what's best for kids (and even adults) not to have a chance to read—and often, they have the power to force public and school libraries to take such volumes off of their shelves.
To beat back those ignorant hordes, the ALA began Banned Books Week, which historicallly has taken place during the last week of September—and this year is the 30th anniversary of that quiet rebellion.
Of course, there's a good chance that you didn't know that—or even that Banned Books Week was happening this week. Neither The New York Times nor the Los Angeles Times bothered to mention it, and in fact, it's been two years since the "newspaper of record" did a story on the event, though the L.A. Times had a small piece last year.
And then there are the anti-government lamebrains who'd like you to believe that a public library or school simply choosing to stock a certain book on its shelves is itself a form of censorship, since there are so many other books out there that those perennially cash-strapped institutions have failed to spend the taxpayers' money on—but a moment's thought will reveal that that's just another right-wing/libertarian attack on government in general, and on public schools in particular. After all, the argument goes, if all kids simply had vouchers to use to attend whatever school they wanted, they could have their choice of schools that stocked the kind of books their parents would approve of—like the folks who'd like to ban any mention of evolution or homosexuality or climate change or socialism, thus guaranteeing that their kids grow up to be just as ignorant as they are!
But this is the week to pay attention to all that; hence the sexually oriented readings taking place this Thursday. Other sexually liberal folks involved in the above-noted readings will include Zoe Hansen, contributor to The Heroin Chronicles, reading from Go Ask Alice, lead vocalist for the tribute band Lez Zeppelin Shannon Conley reading from Kurt Cobain by Michael Martin, Ruby True author Puma Perl reading from The Love Book by Lenore Kandel and Rev Jen, author of Elf Girl, reading from the Henry Miller classic, Tropic of Cancer.
It's bound to be a great evening ... and best of all, it's FREE!
Pictured: Banned author Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore