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The Famous reading list
Somehow, I managed to graduate high school without reading "Fahrenheit 451."
So, there is a kind of cosmic aligning in the fact that I started reading Ray Bradbury's book-burning classic this week — it being Banned Books Week and all.
Started in 1982, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information, and draws attention to the harm of censorship — ala Bradbury — by putting the spotlight on those books that have been challenged or outright banned. There were 4,312 challenges since 2002, according to the American Library Association. It's a long list that can be searched by decade or year, and includes both classic ("The Catcher in the Rye") and contemporary (Harry Potter) titles.
It is as scary as it is ridiculous.
This week let's celebrate intellectual freedom and ensure "the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them." In that vein, here's a list of five books from our personal library that someone somewhere would love to see banned. We suggest you buy a copy of instead.
"Blue Movie," Terry Southern, 1970
A friend lent me this book with this preface: "This was the dirtiest, filthiest, full-of-sex book I've ever read."
It's also a super funny and poignant send-up of the Hollywood system written by the guy who did "Dr. Strangelove."
"Lolita," Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
Boil it down (which you shouldn't do) and "Lolita" is story of an "old man" (to quote Sting) and his affair (love affair?) with a young girl (she's 12). So saying it's your favorite book (there's also two great film versions) might put you on some "To Catch a Predator" list. Exhibit A.) on why Banned Books Week needs to exist.
"American Pyscho," Bret Easton Ellis, 1991
It's rare you read a book and gasp and think, "Did I really just read that?" That's "American Pyscho" in 400-plus pages. It's gruesome in its depiction of sex and violence (usually together). Those Eli Roth movies have nothing on this.
"Choke," Chuck Palahniuk, 2001
You could choose any of Palahnuik's works for this list. I chose "Choke" for its sheer absurdity. It follows a sex-addict con-man who works in a Colonial re-enactment museum and may-or-may not be the second coming of Christ.
"Naked Lunch," William S. Burroughs, 1959
Drugs? Check. Sex? Check. Obscene language? Check. Wildly non-linear semi-biographical narrative and hard-to-describe plot? Of course.
According to wikipedia, "Naked Lunch" was straight-out banned in both Los Angeles and Boston. In 1962, the book faced an obscenity trail, but was found to have some social value and therefor was not obscene, though I'm still not sure about the ooze-filled aliens and insect type writers.
Feel free to add other titles to the list.