No sooner have we finished celebrating “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” that beloved, fake internet holiday, than we’re commanded to turn our enthusiasm to the observance of Banned Books Week.
“Aarggh!” being what most students groan when assigned to read any 19th-century novel, there’s a certain logic in the timing.
Yet in all honesty the week is less a demonstration of freedom than another excuse for people to engage in the kind of smug self-congratulation the Internet thrives on.
So many posts about Banned Books Week are written with the insouciant naughtiness appropriate to 60-year-olds who are now invited to pretend they got away with something by reading Huckleberry Finn in the fourth grade.
Then there are the inevitable lists of books that have been banned someplace, sometime. Because we’re talking about censorship they must all be honored for the stripes they wear no matter what we might say about them in any other context.
Consider Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein’s novel prized by 1960s youth for much the same reason they read The Harrad Experiment. When challenged for its adult themes in Mercedes, TX in 2003, the book was actually retained. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class.
When’s the last time you reread Stranger? I did, not too long ago. Reading Stranger is a punishment in its own right, the passage of 50 years having rendered the novel unreadable in a way that has not touched Starship Troopers.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]