Harry Potter burned for your sins

December 2, 2006 at 2:15 am (Uncategorized)

book_burning_penn.jpgI remember that night in Kennedy Park as all those Harry Potter books were heaped up high and prepared for the flames of censorship. Only, the group that planned the burning forgot to get a permit and so they had to settle for cutting up the books, instead. While there is something comical about a band of crusaders trying to hack into a very thick volume with very cheap scissors, the ultimate purpose of the exhibition was as ugly as ever. Here was censorship at its most vile. Here was a group of do gooders condemning a beloved story because they perceived it as evil adn full of witchery. Child corrupting witchery, no doubt.

And as frightening as the originators of the plan were to me, the hordes that fell behind them was even more disturbing. Average men and women who should fight for their freedoms were instead pumping their fists and screaming their support for the censors. Their eyes glazed over with the vacuous sheen typically seen in cows led to slaughter or followers of charismatic cult leaders. And they kept coming and coming, men, women and children who looked completely normal but who so easily allowed themselves to fall under the spell of the man at the podium.

I had an unsettling vision that night of growing legions gathering in number and strength around the globe. I saw them pointing out the books they deemed inappopriate and casting them out. And while my imagination usually tends toward the overly dramatic, there is no hyperbole at all about that bad dream. Every day, books are challenged and brought up for public scrutiny. Soccer moms who haven’t so much as burped in years will still rant about the evils of “The Catcher in the Rye” and insist that it be removed from high school book shelves.

Harry Potter is doing fine and so is J.D. Salinger, other than the fact that he’s dead. But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, of course, and so I like to revisit the issue every now and then. And so for your nostalgia and unease, here’s a partial list of challenged books followed by a longer list of same.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (contains racial slurs. Imagine that: racial talk in the era of slavery.)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (foul language and it does not represent traditonal values. Whose traditional values, ya bastids?)

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (a teenage girl’s horrible experience with drugs. Not appropriate for teenage girls to read about.)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (described as “filthy and trashy” by a New York school district).

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (teenage characters from broken homes. Certainly not something you want a teenager from a broken home to read about.)

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (irreverant attitude about child disobedience. If you don’t let your kids look at Silverstein sketches, they will be perfect.)

Cujo by Stephen King (profane language. But apparently the part about a St. Bernard eating people is okay.)

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (teenage girls have periods and stuff. For God’s sake, don’t tell the kids.)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (“vulgar and offensive.” Ah, so’s your mother.)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (demoralizing because it implies that man is inherently a savage. This is among my favorite books of all time, so cut that shit out or I’ll kill you with a sharpened bone.)

Carrie by Stephen King (more girls menstruating, swearing and stuff.)

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell (wagering and other socially unacceptable activities. Ah, eat my worm.)

Top 100 recently challenged books



  1. jarheaddoc said,

    First your books, then your firearms, then every other personal freedom that many people fought and died for.

    Unfortunately, there is no constituitonal amendment against being stupid in public.

  2. Linda said,

    The idea of banning books makes me sick to my stomach. What can people be thinking? We let the market decide about business, but not about books? If I don’t approve of something in print, the answer’s easy — I DON’T READ IT. As far as kids are concerned, if parents put the energy into helping their kids develop critical thinking and actually spend time discussing things they read, watch and listen to, then where is the problem?

    Without a range of opposing ideas and the dialectic that flows from it, society dries up. Look at us — this blog blazes when people violently disagree, and then we back away and play pitterpat and get very quiet and, well, dull, right?

  3. Bobbie said,

    I’ve read some of the books on the list and I see nothing wrong with them. I agree with Linda because if I object to a book, I don’t read it. Should I be interested in a subject, I’m going to read up on that subject to learn all that I can. I encourage my children to do the same and we’ve had some wonderful conversations comparing views and opinions. My children know that they have a right to their own opinions on things, have the right to speak their opinion and they don’t crticize someone just because the other person thinks/feels differently than they do.

    Just out of curiosity, who provides the books to be burned when people decide to do something like that? Does each person go and buy a copy of the book? What author would like to know that their book is doing well because people are burning it instead of reading it? Or does it come down to the fact that money is money no matter how it’s earned?

  4. LaFlamme said,

    I’ll tell you what. I’d be thrilled if a do-gooder somewhere decided to burn, slash or otherwise protest “The Pink Room” through some public stunt. That kind of censorship always draws national attention and readers everywhere want to know what the fuss is about. Dammit, I should have written a foul-mouthed lesbian witch into the story line.

  5. Christine said,

    You know … I’ve read just about all of those books, and I had to read them for school. And look at me, I turned out just fuckin fine.

    And Mark, if you complain about my blog one more time I’m going hit you. With a giant foam finger.

  6. LaFlamme said,

    Better than the last thing you hit me with. It left a mark, you know. (But really. Two weeks since your last blog? It’s an outrage.)

  7. Linda said,

    Sure Mark, abuse her blog and then complain because she doesn’t write more often — sounds conflicted to me.

    And as for the foul mouthed lesbian witch — research, mate, research, and then use it for the next book.

  8. LaFlamme said,

    I’ve already researched it. I dated a bisexual pagan. She actually had a bumper sticker announcing as much.

  9. LaFlamme said,

    “I’m sorry I missed church this morning,” said the bumper sticker. “I was busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian.”
    I lived next to one church and across the street from another at the time.

  10. Linda said,

    Well then — I can only think of one reason why you didnt include it in TPR — pure anti-commercialism. Lighten up and give the masses what they / we want!

  11. Linda said,

    Sunshine, Saturday, and “Free Bird” on the radio. Life is good.

  12. Gil said,

    I read “Catcher in the Rye” only because it was on a ban list. They tried pulling it from the libraries when I was a kid, so I figure I see what all the fuss was about. To tell the truth I never really got it. It was an OK book, nothing special, just a lot of swearing. Never a big Holden Caulfield fan. Of course I feel an urge to buy a copy now and then, but that’s more to quiet the voices than anything.

  13. Dave said,

    Warning Mark…. I linked this post on the conservative web site “As Maine Goes” in response to a thread regarding proposed censorship in the Westbrook school system. http://www.asmainegoes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=38128

    This post is spot-on regarding the silliness of censorship.

    You may be receiving some rather peculiar responses from those that apparently support censorship.

  14. Linda said,

    Bring ’em on!

  15. Dave said,

    Gee, I’ve read 9 out of the 12 listed. What does that make me? Am I gonna burn in hell?

  16. AO said,

    I’ve read six of them. I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to ban a book by Shel Silverstein. I mean, come on! The man wrote The Giving Tree! And, To Kill A Mockingbird…tsk, tsk, tsk….one of the best books ever written. Hell, they even made it into a great movie. Again, one of my favorites. These people should be banned.

  17. Linda said,

    Damn, I went out for a couple of hours and came back hoping for a little argy-bargy, er, I mean a little controversy. Instead it’s just “the usual suspects.” Hi AO!

  18. LaFlamme said,

    Absolutely. Those people are welcome to come here and offer their opinions on the matter. We’re listening.

  19. LaFlamme said,

    The butt plugs…

  20. brenda said,

    what? what about the butt plugs?
    I was thinking about my submission for the Screaming Room/Penthouse forums, and there’s butt plugs in the story somewhere……. I was wondering if I shoud dare send it here, or should send it directly to Mark to see first? Are you even going to do a bad sex forums submission contest?

    It would be cool… I remember Forums had stuff like:

    “we were in the elevator when she dropped her package so I started to reach to hand it to her, but she said, no, I can do it myself…and when she bent over to pick it up, she turned & her skirt was up and I could see she had no underwear. Honey, where’s your panties? I asked. She answered, Don’t you remember when we were in the back office? I think I forgot them.. Oh, I remember. The thought of it got me hard again, she said, We’re going down aren’t we? and we kissed in the elevator, she placed my hand on her thigh, I felt her warm……..”
    Oh, nevermind, you don’t want to read that kind of crap, do you?

    Ironically? –Coincidentally– I just took a break from reading Harry Potter & the Order of the Pheonix to check this blog. Imagine, a topic we all agree on.

    I’ve been an avid reader ever since Jr Hi when the film “Farhenheit 451” was shown in school. The idea of banning books really got to me.

    But I have relatives that would be so upset to know we are reading Harry Potter, sure that I am handing my son over to the devil! My priority in childraising is to teach critical thinking, not a particular ideology.. My kids don’t need to agree with my opinions, they do need to demonstrate an ability to think- that’s when I know I succeeded as a parent.

  21. AO said,

    Linda…check your email!!

    Mark…check your pants.

  22. LaFlamme said,

    Checking… Checking… Still checking…

  23. Linda said,

    WTF? WTF? I’ve been taking a trip round the world, minds out of the gutter kids I am playing with Google Earth, and now I think I must have stumbled into a …. oh shit let me go check my email, I am disoriented.

  24. AO said,

    BIG slug on your pants, Flammer.

  25. Linda said,

    Nope, no email. Jeez, I’m kind of regretting the last couple of glasses of wine.

  26. Linda said,

    Somehow I’m not surprised to hear that Mark has a slug on his pants, but … how does AO know about it? What’s going on?

  27. LaFlamme said,

    If I had a nickle for every time I heard THAT…

  28. Linda said,

    And I, for every time I’ve said it …

  29. LaFlamme said,

    I wonder why the As Maine people haven’t popped in for a drink.

  30. Linda said,

    Do you think the talk of butt plugs scared them off?

  31. Linda said,

    I can’t believe it — I just went outside and found that the moon is almost full. I’ve had a distracting week but how did I fail to notice that the moon was getting full? Is it still 2006? Have I been down the rabbit hole? or do I mean through the looking glass? Guess I’ll go ask Alice.

  32. AO said,

    Linda, Seems that we have an email problem.

    Mark…here’s 50 cents.

  33. Linda said,

    have you got mine, AO?

  34. Martha said,

    I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird… many years ago.. same with Tom Sawyer.
    I’ve also read Go Ask Alice.
    Stephen King doesn’t interest me..just not my cup of tea.
    I don’t know about the others. I grew up in a pretty conservative home, but some of these were in our library.

  35. AO said,

    Got your’s. Responded to another address.

  36. Gil said,

    The Chocolate War Huckleberry Finn
    Of Mice and Men The Catcher in the Rye
    Go Ask Alice To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Outsiders Flowers for Algernon
    Cujo The Anarchist Cookbook
    Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
    Slaughterhouse-Five Lord of the Flies
    Carrie The Dead Zone
    Tom Sawyer
    Wow, I read a lot of bannable bookery. Not surprising though, if you remember, I am 86% evil.

  37. Dave said,

    Mark – the AMG’ers are still depressed from the last election defeat(s).

    Still don’t know what to make of the fact that most of Maine residents don’t agree with their conservative stances. Still looking for the next Ronald Reagan to make their world complete.

  38. LaFlamme said,

    It’s a crazy, crazy mixed up world.

  39. Linda said,

    No shit — is it?

    Gil, we’ve been patient, but still no haiku. WTF? Please?

  40. Linda said,

    It sure is!

    Gil, we’ve been patient, but still no haiku. WTF? Please?

  41. Linda said,

    Oh great, now i am editing myself without even realizing it. Can’t hold a 4-word sentence in my head for 7 seconds. That’s probably why I cant write haiku

  42. LaFlamme said,

    I can’t haiku for shit, either. What’s the formula again?

  43. Linda said,

    I think it’s 5-7-5. We’ll see when Gil obliges my polite request

  44. LaFlamme said,

    Gil has gone away
    No haikus from his anus
    I really suck at this

  45. Linda said,

    Thanks Mark. It was good enough for me to call it a night!

    Here’s one I didn’t write but I like it.

    The deadly spider
    traps victims in a cocoon;
    later she eats them.


  46. LaFlamme said,

    The ugly woman
    Picked me up at a saloon
    Now I am itchy

  47. LaFlamme said,

    Hey, this is great fun!

  48. LaFlamme said,

    Squirrels hide nuts in trees
    They get hit by cars a lot
    Squirrels are like drunk guys

  49. hedonisticpleasureseeker said,

    I find it so ironic that the same people who protest books containing magic are the SAME people protesting the teaching of evolution in schools. The Bible is full of magic and pagan ritual (a man swallowed by a whale, a talking donkey, human sacrifice, crazy hopped-up visions, dead people coming back to life, etc.). I suppose they feel the need to make sure we all believe in the RIGHT magic?

  50. Mainetarr said,

    Does AO stand for Annie Oakley?

  51. Crystal said,

    I loved Bridge to Terabitha, one of my fav childhood books!!! I can’t believe people…

  52. Crystal said,

    Thanks for the reading list!!! I needed some good books to read.

  53. freeeeringtones said,

    popular free ringtones



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