Reading and traveling go hand in hand back to the days of horse-drawn carriages and beyond. What better way to while away the hours than with stimulating light reading, thought provoking prose or some scandal sheet rattling off juicy tidbits no more grounded in truth than water running uphill? For those less traveled it is more often than not the written word along with a few choice photographs that carry us back in time, to distant shores or both.
How sad it is to continue to see such things as lists of banned literature. Age appropriate guidelines I can live with but to have books out and out banned from public consumption, particularly in the school systems is to me the height of the very oppression so many of these concerned and learned factions claim to abhor. Am I more enlightened than any other living soul? Hardly, yet I am certainly no less sensitive to insensitive thought, conjecture or statement. How, then, have I been able to read some of these banned titles where children today are not permitted the same level of diverse reading?
In high school in the late 70s and early 80s I was required to read “The Scarlet Letter,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “As I Lay Dying,” “Animal Farm” and “Madame Bovary” among some 50 titles banned in certain parts of the United States . Other titles from that list which I later read of my own volition include “Gone With the Wind,” “Jaws,” “Catch-22” and “Of Mice and Men.” I’m re-reading the “Harry Potter” series from start to finish, all of which are also on the list.
I found “The Scarlet Letter” to be boring and much ado about nothing and I couldn’t understand why pigs were chosen as the overlords of society in “Animal Farm” as opposed to bulls, roosters or any other strutting and preening animal in the barnyard. I enjoyed Bovary’s tale of illicit love while I will always remember my mother and I agreeing to each read 50 pages a piece to each other so we could get through the difficult narrative of “Mockingbird.” Much of the story and symbolism from all of these are long gone and forgotten, honestly, so either they had no impact upon my impressionable mind at the time or they hold no sway over my view of the world today despite any subliminal messages from the writing that might have taken hold.
Then there is “Huckleberry Finn.” Saw the movie, read the book and simply accepted at a young age that such language was part of life at the time it was written. The satire caught with me but the dialogue itself has no bearing on my relationships with others today. Most importantly, at a very young age I saw through all of that to the beauty of the friendship between two fish out of water looking for nothing so complicated as love and acceptance.
I wondered what river boating would be like just as vividly as I raced through the streets of Paris trying to imagine the ultimate fulfillment of unrequited longing or the bittersweet taste of justice served after a needless crime was committed. Then I wonder, like so many others around the world, why in seven installments there was never one mention of an American, Asian or African school of witchcraft and wizardry!
As if there was never that kind of voodoo anywhere outside of Europe ?!