Thursday, October 06, 2005

Still Thinking about Banned Books

I’m still thinking about that list of banned books. I remain flabbergasted by some of those listed. Perhaps some of them are there, as I deduced from Thomas, because they lack “happy endings.” Others, of course, are present because they challenge our nation’s double standards about sexuality. I must admit that I really don’t know the “why” of most of them. I wish the American Library Association had provided more information on the individual rationale that the book burners used in opposing them.

Meanwhile, I am rather amazed that books by one of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson, are not represented! Not that I would ever suggest that his books—or any book—be banned, but Thompson was an author who didn’t hold back.

I truly enjoy reading Hunter—and not just because he, like me, was “born and bred” in Louisville. He was a complex man “of strange and bewitching charisma.” His writings have certainly bewitched me. Likewise, I am certain that his “gonzo journalism” infuriated and exasperated the American establishment. I can’t picture our President—or any of the “old money” powers that be—reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegasor any of the Gonzo papers, even though President Bush owned a sports franchise and Hunter was nominally a sports writer.

If you’ve not read anything written by Hunter S. Thompson, I urge you to do so. To get a bit of his flavor, here are a few of my favorite words that he wrote:

I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.

It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.

If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.

If there is, in fact, a Heaven and a Hell, all we know for sure is that Hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix...

Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas ... with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether.

In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile.

Morality is temporary, wisdom is permanent.

You can always turn your back on a person, but you can never turn your back on a drug... especially when it's waving a hunting knife in your eyes.

In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long.

A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Of course, each of the above are taken out of context and you really can’t appreciate Hunter unless you read the whole.

OK, let me end this by saying that Hunter’s suicide this year was a shock to many—and I am included in that number. I miss his commentary on the American scene. I remain surprised his books didn’t make the list of “the banned.” Maybe I’m also a little disappointed—as I feel Hunter would have been—that he’s not on that list. Had he been, perhaps he’d have gained some new readers!


  1. I would love to hear the rational on some of those books.

  2. I think some of the books are banned just because they have a reputation for being banned. "Catcher in the Rye," for example, doesn't really have content that many would find objectionable, but it always makes the list.

    I was surprised at Hunter's death, too, but really I couldn't picture him dying of old age in a nursing home. I thought one of his "hobbies" would eventually be the end of him. It's amazing he lasted as long as he did.

  3. sonson: I have been doing a bit of research on the Net. As yet, I've not found the rationale for the various books. I'm going to keep trying

  4. Thomas, I agree that some of the books were placed on the list because of their reputation. I read “Catcher in the Rye” back when I was in high school in the early 60s. At that time there was a lot of talk of it being banned. What gets me is (I think) the American Library Association list includes those books that were “questioned” as late as last year.

    As for Hunter Thompson, you are right: one of his hobbies—collecting guns—evidently did him in. Yet, the why and when of his decision to commit suicide is something that I haven’t discovered.

  5. i never heard of him before. thanks for writing about him

  6. Who in the world in the last decade would "question" or want to ban To Kill A Mockingbird?

    I can't even fathom that.

    (I'm commening here about the linked to list as I've just discovered your blog.)

  7. Jody, you're welcome.

    Silouan, I whave know idea why 80% of those books were questioned!