Banned Books Week

Against Banned Books (Please Spread This Pic &...
CC image from florian.b at flickr

We’re getting towards the end of the US-centric Banned Books Week (it ends on the second of October) and deals with the often abused US system in which often local communities ban or lobby for the banning of books that are not necessarily restricted content but simply books that confront or contradict personal ideologies.  Mostly this involves sex – particularly homosexuality or non-standard sexuality – supernatural themes and drug use.

In Australia there’s certainly more noise to be heard regarding content restriction in the form of proposed internet filters, video games and film classifications, but we do ourselves have a record of banning and restricting access to books for various reasons, some less noble than others.  You can theoretically search the attorney general’s classification database to check out a history of classification decisions on books (including those refused classification/restricted content), but there’s no distinction between periodicals and other publications, which means search results end up invariably glutted with pornographical magazine listings.  You’re best off looking to Wikipedia and scanning the complete list of banned books to pick out those banned in Australia (trust me, there’s less books banned globally than issues of porn magazines cautioned and banned by the AUS government).  But there is also a nice and readable history of literary classification in the country to be found here.

In any case, the amusing note I wanted to make today was something I found through Bookseller and Publisher news by proxy (a.k.a Boomerang Books Blog) that this week Random House publishing has recalled a book called Evil in the Suburbs that details some past rape cases in Sydney.  It’s not exactly a banning, since it seems to be a voluntary recall.  I haven’t had much luck at Random House’s site itself; the search form seems to be returning errors every time I try it and there’s not a word in their news updates page.  But it’s close enough that I’m quite amused by it all.

When I think of banned books, I think predominantly of Oscar Wilde and E.M. Forster, though I know that in reality there’s a lot of restrictions regarding sexuality (and sex crimes) and euthanasia in global and Australian recent history that the populace as a whole should be informing themselves about more.  I do feel very lucky that I am free to read the books currently in my reading piles without any type of restriction, though.  I don’t think I often realise how fortunate I was to be born into a country with few banned books and a high accessibility of print media.

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