Passionate readers do not read expurgated editions of books. We do not want to read Readers’ Digest condensed books or abridged classics. We do not want sanitized versions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series or Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We are relieved that in 1960 the ban was lifted from D. H. Lawrence’s controversial novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But how long will this freedom last? The barbarians are at the gate. Book-banning is legal in some red states and some publishers have capitulated to pressure from both the left and right to update, i.e. censor, the classics.
How did our society regress so quickly ? It is a political issue. It is pandering to a tiny right-wing minority. It began in our blue state when it turned seeing-red in 2016. The state government has regressed so far that it recently legislated banning books in the schools. At this point I should draw a cartoon depicting the state legislators with their protegees, Moms for Liberty, gleefully romping and flicking lighters as they prepare a bonfire of books. The caption would have to be: “Vote for ignorance!”
The banning of issue-oriented Y.A. books in the schools does not particularly concern me. That’s because the school libraries should invest in better-written, more challenging, mature books anyway. What actually concerns me is the banning of classics. Here’s what the red states are banning these days: Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Art Spiegleman’s Maus, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Orwell’s 1984, and (déjà vu) Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. What’s the next target? It is likely to be public libraries.
What I want to know is: when did censorship become a women’s issue? Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, has received much publicity, though it boasts only 120,000 members. Still, they can take some credit for the new censorship policies in the schools. They have worked to wrest power from teachers and librarians. They aver that parents are entitled to dictate the public school curricula. In addition to banning books, they demand that teachers limit discussions of race and LGBTQ+ issues. This year the Republicans, particularly the presidential candidates, noisily support Moms for Liberty.
Here’s what I wonder: what do Moms for Liberty read? Have they read Joyce, Morrison, Faulkner, Orwell, and other books on their banned list? Wouldn’t you love to infiltrate their group for a day? My guess is that many prefer racy Netflix shows to reading, but they may enjoy the S/M former best-seller, Fifty Shades of Grey, the latest Colleen Hoover, bodice-ripper romances, celebrity biographies, and People magazine.
Of course I shouldn’t generalize. For all I know, they’re scholars.
But I doubt it.