Dangerous! by
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Prompted By Banned Books

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I read banned books – to protest their banning of course,  but also because they’re invariably such good reads!

As you may know,  countless modern classics have been banned or challenged at one time or another,  among them The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,  As I Lay Dying,  Beloved,  The Catcher in the Rye,  The Color Purple,  The Good Earth,  The Grapes of Wrath,  The Great Gatsby,  The Handmaid’s Tale,  Heart of Darkness,  Lady Chatterley’s Lover,  Lolita,  Lord of the Flies,  Naked Lunch,  1984,  Of Mice and Men,  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,  The Satanic Verses,  To Kill a Mockingbird, Tropic of Cancer,  The Unbearable Lightness of Being,  and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

And of course the book often called the greatest novel of the 20th century was banned,  deemed pornographic,  and the subject of a famous 1921 censorship trial –  James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses.   (See  My Love Affair with James Joyce)

Translated into more than 20 languages,  Ulysses has spawned thousands of critical studies,  college courses,  doctoral theses,  workshops,  panel discussions,  readings,  literary celebrations,   and stage and screen adaptions.

In a fascinating work entitled The Most Dangerous Book: the Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses,  Harvard professor Kevin Birmingham discusses the writing,  legal fights,  and eventual publication of that amazing and revolutionary novel.

But are banned books – like Ulysses – really dangerous?   I guess you’ll just have to read them yourself and decide!

– Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Banned books
Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    I want that sticker!! Still have to put some of those books on my list. Interesting how literature and art that are dismissed as too radical can turn into revered works—until some ideologue tries to ban them again.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    I agree with you and Khati. Reading/rereading the list of excellent banned books would be a worthy undertaking and an excellent idea for a book club.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Great sticker and great story, Dana. You sure get to the heart of what banning is all about and brava to you for confronting it head on.

    That said, count me among the many who have tried to read Ulysses and surrendered hopelessly. Though I did help underwrite and see an amazing opera based on it out on by my college residential house’s opera: society warmer this year, written by an amazing recent graduate. And mercifully brief.

  4. Marian says:

    I must confess I haven’t read Ulysses, Dana, but I enjoyed your recap and the sticker. What have we come to in America? It’s a good time to read banned books and make sure the younger generations have access to them.

  5. Suzy says:

    Love the books you name in your second paragraph, and have read almost all of them. I already planned to get The Satanic Verses, as I said in my own story, and now I will add The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which wasn’t on the list I was looking at. However, even though I knew you would talk about Ulysses, I’m still not going to put that on my list. Sorry. 🙂

  6. Amen to reading them ourselves.

    And this is quite a list. I’ve added a few of them to my “to read” list. And also the “try again” list. (Like Ulysses. Feel like I need to bench press it a bit before opening.)

    Seems like it’s still sexuality, racism, and politics that get you banned. And since many of these books are hefty, taking concentration and thinking to finish, it’s a good bet that a lot of banning is done by sharing selective, juicy passages, rather than absorbing the author’s intention.

  7. Oh, good, Dana. I’m going to heaven! I did read Ulysses and, in contrast with War and Peace, where I ‘learned’ stuff, reading Ulysses was somewhat psychedelic. And I haven’t taken much acid! I also read Judge Woolsey’s 1933 decision for the Southern District of New York and found it intriguing in its successful attempt at defining what’s ‘dirty’ and what isn’t. I really should take a course in Ulysses.

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    We do know your love affair with Ulysses, Dana. But thanks for your librarian’s input about so many of the other banned books throughout the years. Quite the list – so many award-winners among them. Narrow-minded people are just afraid of race, sex, gender. It’s a pity, because most young adults are hungry to learn!

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    I think that, as a writer, if you don’t really piss off some people at least some of the time, you ain’t doin’ it right!

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