This post was resurrected from a defunct music blog I worked on from 2008-2010. The blog wasn’t successful, but I always enjoyed this post.
It’s Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of artistic expression (the freedom to write) and the freedom of the press (the freedom to read), observed this year by Amnesty International, the American Library Association, and others. This isn’t just a ploy to get teenagers to read old books (as satirized by the Onion) – it’s a chance to challenge yourself and challenge those around you by reading stuff others would rather you didn’t. After all, finding those books deemed unfit for minors is pretty much what got me through high school. Rather than pick up the relatively safe (but still naughty) Canterbury Tales or Fanny Hill, here’s my list of 5 riskier and more entertaining choices, in no particular order:
- Lolita (1955) by Nabokov (long unpublished in English, seized by customs in the UK, banned in France).
- The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) or Crash (1973) by Ballard. No, not the basis for the horrible movie with Ludacris, but Crash was adapted by Cronenberg in the controversial 1996 film. The first run of Ballard’s experimental Atrocity Exhibition was destroyed by Doubleday.
- Naked Lunch (1959) by Burroughs. The target of the last major [print] censorship trial in the US. I bet you’d still have a hard time finding it in a school library.
- A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Burgess. If you’ve seen Kubrick’s film, you can see why it’s frequently challenged and removed from school libraries.
And while you’re taking a well-deserved break from these challenging novels, why not listen to some banned music? We celebrate Banned Books Week, but the fight against censorship in music is still ongoing. Take a look back on…
- 2 Live Crew - As Nasty As They Wanna Be. 808 beats and a 1992 court overruling that remain at the heart of hip-hop.
- N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton. The classic album, as well as 2 Live’s Nasty, were both banned in Tennessee.
- Public Enemy - Hazy Shade of Criminal. Banned from MTV because of violence and yet it’s largely a protest against government-sanctioned violence!
- DJ Dangermouse - The Grey Album. Censorship continues under copyright law, so here’s one of the highest achievements of “illegal” art ever.