Banned . . . in Hanover?
Banning books is not new, and has happened closer to home than you might have thought.
In a recent issue of Junction Magazine, Isaac Lorton has uncovered the story of The Professor’s Wife, a fictionalized account of the lives of Dartmouth academics published in 1928. Its author, Bravig Imbs—later to be part of Gertrude Stein’s circle in Paris—attended Dartmouth College as a student in the early 1920s and lived in a professor’s home as a sort of butler. He wrote what he saw. Dartmouth was not amused.
Was the book banned in Hanover? Word has it that Dartmouth’s then-President Hopkins, in a “towering rage” ordered the two Hanover bookstores to refrain from selling the book. Another version of the story maintains that the refusal to sell was the decision of the bookstores themselves. Want to know what all of the fuss was about? The book is currently being republished under a new title, Eric’s Story, by Eglantyne Books. Read Isaac’s full story in Junction Magazine here.
Curious about other banned books? Spend a few minutes poking around the American Library Association’s website page devoted to the subject. It can tell you which books—from classics to contemporary, adult to children’s books, by the decade or by the year—have been banned and the reasons why.
Some people ban books, while others resist the book-banning. There is much debate about what constitutes a correct and effective response. Twitter is filled with suggestions urging book lovers to buy and distribute copies of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust that was just banned in Tennessee schools. (Probably as a result, Maus has recently climbed to Nos. 2 and 3 on Amazon’s current list of best sellers. By the time you read this, it might occupy the No. 1 spot.) Bookstores routinely set up center-aisle displays advertising “banned books.” Author Stephen King (a former teacher, whose own books have been banned) has tweeted that school kids should not “get mad,” they should:
. . . get even. Don’t spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don’t walk to the nearest non-school library or the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned . . . Because that’s exactly what you need to know.
The “most banned” book? It depends on whom you ask. One source claims “The Catcher in the Rye [by former Upper Valley resident J.D. Salinger] has the fascinating double distinction of being both the most banned and the second most taught book in American schools.” By some other accounts, the most frequently banned book in the United States is George Orwell’s 1984. Still. Imagine.
(Photo, top, via Pixabay. Graphic via American Library Association.)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.