Banned Book Club: Happy Bloomsday & some notes

Photo Jun 16, 8 26 34 AM

Round 1! And we’re just getting started.

For those of you following along thus far, you know I’m getting prepped for Banned Books Week 9/22-28. I’ve finished the first sprint (frequently challenged books with titles containing numbers!) and am taking a quick breath before diving into the next set of books. So far I’ve read & updated on:

I kind of like this mixing of classics with the newer books, though I feel more enriched drilling-down into great books than into what’s controversial today. (e.g. no, i will not be reading Twilight or 50 shades of grey). So I have the next grouping of books to announce, but first want to say Happy Bloomsday! And Happy Father’s Day!

And so today, in honor of Bloomsday (which commemorates the life of James Joyce and his novel Ulysses), I’m going to read: 1) The decision from US vs Ulysses/Random House (in which U.S. District Court Judge John Woolsey) lifts the ban on Ulysses, and 2) “Penelope”; the last episode of the novel, from the perspective of Molly Bloom.

Most of the books on my list have been challenged or banned from public libraries/schools. But Ulysses is a little different – it was actually prosecuted under obscenity laws in many countries; though written in English, resistance to the material was fierce enough that the book was first published in its entirety in Paris (1922) – and literally banned in the US & UK (there are records of the USPS burning copies) through the 20’s. In 1933 the ban was effectively lifted in the US when  Judge Woolsey ruled that the book was not pornographic and therefore could not be obscene.

James Joyce’s novel Ulysses was published in 1922, and follows the day of main character Leopold Bloom on June 16, 1904. (Joyce’s first date with his then-future wife Nora was on 6/16, and he set the date for his novel accordingly. ) The text, one of the most important works in Modernism, is extremely dense: rich in language, historical references, mythological allusions – and puns. To the reader the book is a chaotic blend of dreams criss-crossed with reality, but the tidal stream-of-consciousness prose does, somehow, reveal meaning. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. I read Ulysses myself for the first time during a summer in college, when I was living in Philadelphia – home of the Rosenbach Museum (a book museum!) and one of the many places that celebrates Bloomsday annually.

After this excerpt from Ulysses, I’m going after these frequently challenged books next:

  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Satanic Verses
  • The Adventures of Captain Underpants
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Native Son
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • The Jungle

Those of you who are very clever and know me well *might* think I’m procrastinating on something. Yes. I still need to upload my “Games We Play” notes, but actually I am procrastinating equally hard against my homework, also of the game theory variety.

What do you think?

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