The Crazy Years
Burning The Right Books
by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
More years ago than I care to calculate, a handful of local folks who claimed to revere the First Amendment, held an annual “I Read Banned Books” festivity during which volunteers would read aloud in the town square from books that had been outlawed at one time or another by some authority or another: libraries, schools, churches, even whole governments, sometimes.
Banned books included (but were certainly not limited to) Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, Lolita, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Forever Amber, The Naked and the Dead, The Satanic Verses, works by the Marquis de Sade, even Brave New World and The Anarchist Cookbook; the list was practically endless, but you get the drift. This was whole decades before the current spate of works on sexual identity—including many intended for kids—which has spawned its own collection of banned books. I understand, thanks to the Internet, that the “I Read Banned Books” event still occurs elsewhere, here and there. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I have hated, loathed, and despised every form of censorship all my life and I would look into it further if I actually gave a rusty fuck.
The reason I don’t give a rusty fuck is that the whole get-together smelled to me of hypocrisy from the very beginning. It was sponsored, in this community at least, by the mostly female owners and operators of several used bookstores which were among my favorite haunts, but which I understood perfectly well were run by ladies that we’d characterize today as Hillary Clinton voters. Through many a controversy, they had never impressed me with any great, undying love they’d exhibited for individual liberty, and it turned out that they were no different when it came to their regard for the uninhibited freedom to read and write.
“Wonderful!” I responded—admittedly a trifle sarcastically—when they attempted to recruit me to read for their literary luau. (I had a clear, strong voice in those days.) “I’ll be honored and happy to read aloud from Pauline Reage’s immortal classic, Story of O.”
“What? What? What? What? What What?” came the horrified shrieks from the “freedom-loving” booksellers. Story of O, in case you’re unaware of it, is an intimate, almost poetic account of a young woman’s completely voluntary descent into abject sexual slavery, written by a French author in the 1950s whose real name was Anne Cécile Desclos. It was immediately banned, for decades, almost everywhere on the planet and had to be emancipated by a court of law.This is by no means the venue in which to describe Story of O in too much detail, but it’s all too likely to show you things about yourself that you never knew or ever wanted to know. One of the great psychological works of all times, it’s not light reading for the faint of heart or the even slightly self-deceiving.
“Whenever that book comes into my shop,” one of the biblio-matrons told me with self-righteous enthusiasm, “I destroy it!”
Now I have had to write, from time to time, about how my personal philosophy differs from that of conservatives. One or two of those worthies have even accused me on occasion of being a liberal. This is one of the major reasons I am neither of those things. I was almost physically sickened by the duplicitous sanctimony of that bookseller’s statement. It would never occur to me to outlaw or burn a book. As a writer, I appreciate that every published work is a kind of miracle. Books like Das Kapital, Mein Kampf, and Rules for Radicals are valuable if only because they show us the inner workings of the villainous minds of the self-declared, implacable enemies of Western Civilization.
Pauline Reage’s book provides the answers to many questions, among them, it offers a key to the baffling “battered wife syndrome” I first encountered as a police officer. I’m afraid I outraged the hysterical “I Read Banned Books” crowd even further by informing them that, if I ever had to become one of the Book People of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, I would be Story of O.
Award-winning writer L. Neil Smith is Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise and author of over thirty books. Look him up on Google, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com. He is available at professional rates, to write for your organization, event, or publication, fiercely defending your rights, as he has done since the mid-60s. His writings (and e-mail address) may be found at L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise, at JPFO.org or at Patreon. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essay was originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. If you like what you’ve seen and want to see more, he says. ”Don’t applaud, throw money.“
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