Dave Buckhout  .


Ulysses & The Good Ol' Book-Banning TraditionFor no particular reason aside from it being a nice affordable 50-year old volume (with a great modernist dust-jacket design), I purchased Joyce’s Ulysses last year at an antiquarian bookshop in Charlottesville, Virginia. For no particular reason, I decided to take it down from our bookshelf a few weeks back and start reading it. It is as challenging as it has been cracked up to be; and I admit, I haven’t quite captured the rhythm yet. But I can sense it (like a coming storm?), intrigued enough by the improvisational bead Joyce takes on disrupting the old tired formula. His commitment to the experiment is embedded on each page, whether I ‘get it’ or not. It may yet wear me out, but I respect his commitment enough to keep at it.

That said, I noticed only after having purchased the volume that a copy of the 1933 court-ruling lifting the libel suit against the book (which had effectively banned it) and thereby clearing the way for its sale in the U.S., was included in the foreward. This was a landmark decision in its day, having reversed the precedent of repressed intolerance that had, to that point, told Americans what they could and could not read. Institutional book-banning turns out to be a tradition that has been with us from the start. That it flies in the face of our founding statutes securing the individual the freedom to decide for themselves, even amongst majorities who do not share their views, makes it a historically-untenable tradition, yes. But then, we all know how that has gone for certain individuals in the face of disapproving majorities, despite founding documentation; but, a discussion for another day … The court-ruling printed in my copy of Ulysses peaked my curiosity in that I was simply interested to see what other volumes now considered bona-fide classics were at one time—for whatever narrow reasons—banned. If you are a reader of classic fiction, casual or avid, do a quick search—and prepare for the head-slapping results. The best list I found was on the American Library Association’s site (URL below). I have read all, or anthology-selections from ⅔ of the 46 classics listed here. So, considering the mass perversion embedded in this list, I guess I should feel lucky that I haven’t become a monstrous societal evil by absorbing their contents. My advice: if you want to exercise your birthright freedoms, read a book that others say you cannot. Otherwise, they will have made up your mind for you … And now, back to my current act of civil disobedience: Ulysses.

A "Banned & Challenged Classics" List


Publication Date: August 31, 2011