banned books, censorship, Saturday Uncensored, William Faulkner

Saturday’s Uncensored – William Faulkner

“We do not fear censorship for we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we may illuminate the bright side of virtue.” – D.W. Griffith

Welcome to to another installment of Saturdays, Uncensored! the only weekly meme hosted here at RBR.net.  The purpose of this weekly feature is to bring continued scrutiny and awareness to the on-going, destructive practice of censorship and banning books.

Also important to mention this week are two major events coming soon to Roof Beam Reader.  The first is a Literary Giveaway Hop, hosted over at Leeswamme’s Blog.  I believe there is still time to sign-up, if you would like to host a Giveaway on your own blog. The only caveat is that the Giveaway must be “literary” in nature (so nothing strictly YA, sub-genre fiction, paranormal romance, etc.).  I will be hosting a powerhouse giveaway here at RBR.net, with a few different “themed” prize packs, so definitely mark your calendars for February 19th!

The second event is a guest post by Laura Kreitzer, author of Phantom Universe.  She will be here to talk about her book and the darkly terrifying realities which inspired it.  The book comes out on February 15th, and Laura’s guest post will be available here at RBR.net on release date. Definitely stop by on Feb. 15th to read her very powerful and enlightening post, and interact with me and the author about it all.

Okay! Now that all of the little details about this month’s activities are out of the way, it is on to the good stuff!  This week, in Saturdays, Uncensored!, we take a look at a work by one of America’s greatest writers, William Faulkner.

William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is an exploration of family, society, and mortality.  The Bundren family, led by their bumbling but ultimately calculating father, travels by horse and buggy from their small farm into the city of Jefferson, Alabama to bury their dead mother.  The trip takes days, due to weather and various calamities, and what the reader learns about each character, and the characters about one another, ends up being the redeeming trait for a would-be-simple trip gone wildly awry.

All-in-all, I found this to be one of Faulkner’s more accessible novels.  For literature lovers who are interested in reading Faulkner but who have been dissuaded by reviews/descriptions of his more ambitious works or who have perhaps started those novels and given up, this might be a substantive, meaningful compromise.  While I did find some fault with the novel, particularly in the lack of “meaty” scenes and character interaction, I was still generally happy with characterization itself, as well as the story and it’s ironic, darkly humorous ending.  The last few lines of the novel, when Mr. Bundren’s ultimate purpose and decision are revealed to his family and the reader, reminded of a Vonnegut-type wit and total exasperation for humankind.  This, of course, was right up my alley, and it made a “good” read, for me, pretty great in the end.

According to the American Library Association, As I Lay Dying was banned or challenged at least four times between 1986 and 1994. The most common reasons for these challenges were that the book “questioned the existence of God” or had “obscene passages.”  The “obscene” passages most at issue were mainly two: one which dealt with a character contemplating abortion, and the other a passage about masturbation.Now, I don’t know what high school was like in the 1980s and 1990s, but from what I remember of it- masturbation was was talked about constantly, at least by the male portion of the student body, so wouldn’t the presence of it in a classic, heralded text do something to, I don’t know, validate the human condition? I’m also disturbed that this book would be challenged over its inclusion of abortion, because the way that this particular book dealt with that issue is one of the most honest and moving examples I can recall.  It paid great attention to the “thought process” and physical/emotional strain on the mother. As for the primary complaint, that the book “questions the existence of God” and “uses God’s name in vain,” come on. Really?  I mean, I can understand that there are still some wing nuts out there who would not want to read a book for these reasons, but that a public school district actually banned the book for it?  I am flabbergasted by this, and it leaves me wondering why the few nutters who shout the loudest are continuously allowed to be the ones making decisions for all the more moderate, sensible parents.  Where are the reasonable arguments – and why aren’t they resonating just as loudly down the school hallways?

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