Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's your favourite banned book?

Hey! Apparently it was Banned Books week in the US last week. That’s me, always relevant, always on top of the game.

I went through a stage of reading books that had at one time been banned by censors. It started off with mostly historical stuff, but is now very heavily balanced towards Young Adult. And American. Seriously, what’s that about? Oh noes! The book contains drug use, violence or sexual themes! We can’t possibly have our teenagers reading that instead of playing Grand Theft Auto.

Tiny ill-conceived rant over.*

My banned books include:

The 120 Days of Sodom, by the Marquis de Sade.

My verdict: First horrifying, then banal, and then amusingly repetitive. Insert Tab A into Slot B. Repeat ad nauseum. Seriously, there’s only so many times you can commit an atrocity on a fictional character and have me care. Real world violence is terrible. So is your book. But I forgive you because you were mad.

Come in Spinner, by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James.

This is an Aussie classic It’s set in Sydney during the Second World War, and was banned because it covered things like rape, prostitution and abortion. It wasn’t published in an unabridged form until the 1980s. This is one of the first grown-up books I read as a teenager, and I still love it. The title, if you’re wondering, references two-up, a gambling game.  

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. If you have never read this book, you must read it. You must. It is awful, and beautiful, and heartbreaking, and I don’t have enough words for how brilliant it is.

One banned book I’ve never read is American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, which is a shame because this one was actually banned for sale in my home state of Queensland until really recently. You can still only buy it wrapped in plastic from behind the counter, like a—gasp—dirty book.

A few years ago, I got a call at work from a woman.

“Is it still illegal to buy American Psycho in Queensland?”

“Oooh! Let me look it up.” A few minutes later I broke it to her that it was, in fact, illegal. But I had a cunning work-around. “Why don’t you just order it off Amazon?”


“You know,” I said. “Just get it posted.”

“I suppose I could consider that,” she said warily, like I was setting her up for Operation Undercover Illegal Book Sting.

“That’s what I would do,” I told her.

“But it’s still illegal, right?”

“Oh, sure,” I said, “but Customs aren’t going to open a parcel from Amazon. Besides, even if someone found out, I highly doubt anyone’s going to charge you for something like that. It’s a book.”

“Ah,” said the lady. I suspect this was not the advice she expected when she called the police station. “Um. I’ll think about it?”

“Well, okay, good luck,” I told her.

My Bringing-Them-Down-From-The-Inside quota fulfilled for the shift, I wished her well and went back to work.

Do you have a favourite banned book? 

*Ill-conceived because censorship offends me a hell of a lot more than any video game ever has.  


  1. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that To Kill a Mockingbird was banned due to "racism". Um... wow. Talk about missing the point.

    1. COMPLETELY missed the point on that one. I love To Kill a Mockingbird.

  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Brave New World, Catch 22, Lolita and The Metamorphosis are all wonderful banned books but my favourite would definitely be Frankenstein, which I'm surprised was banned.

    1. I love all the examples you've listed, except Brave New World. I tried to read this when I was a teen and for some reason it felt silly and dated. I think I need to give it another chance.

      I didn't realise Alice had been banned - wow!

  3. I wish you worked at the station in town, so I could call up and get such good advice on how to break the law. :-)

    My favorites would be Farenheit 451, Leaves of Grass, and Moby Dick.

    1. I love Fahrenheit 451!

      And oh yeah, I give people the best advice. :) FIGHT THE POWER!



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