Friday, October 2, 2009

Banned Books Week

Acting on a suggestion from her friend Melissa, Laura recently celebrated Banned Books Week by reading one and posting a review.

I, too, wanted to participate, but being in the middle of a book and being a molasses-in-January kind of reader, saw there was no way I’d finish my current read and complete another by week’s end.

So I've done the next best thing. (Those of you who know me well will likely roll their eyes.) I have an album of an Allen Ginsberg poetry reading, which includes the famous ‘Howl’.

So in honor of Banned Books Week, I have listened to a record. Admittedly a bit off the mark, but under the circumstances the best I could do.

A bit of backstory: Allen Ginsberg was one of the leading lights of beat poetry. In mid-fifties San Francisco, Ginsberg, along with Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, railed against the social strictures of the day, fueled by be-bop jazz, illegal sex and narcotics.

This literary rebellion contributed directly to the civil rights rebellion of the early-sixties, and the anti-war protests of the late-sixties. It is no stretch to say that the beat poets lit the fuse that exploded “Leave It to Beaver”-land.

Among the frank sexual imagery, ‘Howl’ is the song of the ostracized, looking up the skirt of staid, conservative and capitalist nineteen-fifties America. Half a century later, it’s easy to forget that copies were impounded as obscene, and that publisher Ferlinghetti was arrested for the distribution of obscenity.

It took a court to decide that the publication and distribution of ‘Howl’ wouldn’t destroy the moral fiber of America.  

That would require a cabal of our captains of industry and elected representation.

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