Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week this week.  The annual celebration runs from Sept 22-28 and was launched in 1982 to try and counter the growing trend for challenging/banning books. According to the American Booksellers Association, who runs the event, more than 11,300 have been challenged since 1982, including, last year, Khalid Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. 

Many of the books on the banned list are amongst my all-time favourite books.  I try each year to celebrate the event by revisiting a classic banned book.  This year, the book I revisited was Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.  When I was around 17 (over a hundred years ago, as my kids would say), I attempted, along with some of my friends, to memorise the first chapter.  We did pretty well with it and I'm afraid that, all these years later, I'm still able to recite the first two paragraphs ("What's it going to be then, eh?"). The appeal of A Clockwork Orange for me was partly due to the disturbing, risque nature of the work. I was, after all, a rebellious teen. The questions that the book raises about morality and free will are as disturbing and relevant today as they were when it was written in 1962. Pondering those questions and discussing them with my pals was part of the pleasure and the educational value that we got from the book.  I was also attracted to Burgess' innovative use of language. Every word is understandable, yet much of it is linguistically inventive, and in spite of the disturbing nature of the words, kind of thrilling to read. You can check out a glossary here: http://www.artofeurope.com/kubrick/nadsat.htm

Finally, I think that A Clockwork Orange is probably one of the few really exceptional books that translated into an exceptional film. It's hard to think of Little Alex in any other way than as he was portrayed by Malcolm McDowell.

You can find out more about Banned Books Week here: http://bannedbooksweek.org/ and join in with your own tweets, readings, and reflections (feel free to put some of those in the comments below as well).  You can even 'hang-out' with banned writers like Erica Jong and Lauren Oliver.

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