Banned Books Week—The Catcher in the Rye
September 26, 2011 Leave a comment
In honor of Banned Books Week, our staff will be sharing their experiences with banned books, and at the end of the week, we’ll give away a copy of Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection to one of our randomly selected blog subscribers. To enter the giveaway, just subscribe to our blog via the e-mail subscription link. To enter additional times, you can blog, tweet, or update your status on Facebook with a link over to the giveaway (tag @FulcrumBooks on Twitter and @FulcrumPublishing on Facebook), or “like” Fulcrum Publishing on Facebook! Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry and leave the link to each one. The contest ends on October 3.
Today’s blog post is from our designer, Jack Lenzo.
There is something especially satisfying about reading a banned book. My first encounter with banned books came as a young teen. My mom ran the bookstore at Holy Cross Jr. College in South Bend, Indiana (the very same place where Rudy went to get better grades so that he could go to Notre Dame and play one down in a football game that was already over).
I was a freshman at the high school next door and had to help my mom out during registration because for one week at the start of each semester it was crazy busy. The reason I mention this is that in what seemed like a fairly conservative place, I kept handing these young impressionable students a stack of books that included The Catcher in the Rye. And every time I grabbed it off the shelf, my mom felt the need to comment on what a horrible, filthy book it was and couldn’t believe that it was being assigned in class.
Okay, let’s stop there and reflect. What would your thirteen-year-old self have done? Of course I read it. Anything that could incite such an impassioned response from my mom, time and time again, was clearly something I had to get my hands on. So there I was, reading The Catcher in the Rye with the satisfaction of the guilty. It did a couple of things for me.
First and foremost, it inspired me to start making up my own freakin’ mind. If a priest (or a brother…I can’t quite remember which vows this particular professor had taken) and my mom can have a differing opinion on the value of a book, what else was out there in the world? Books often make very different impressions on people based on when in their lives they read them. And hell, she may have never even read it herself and instead just passed along yet another person’s take whose opinion might have had some agenda that my mom failed to convey. You just never really know. Reading that book was the only morally ambiguous thing that a man of the cloth ever inspired in me. Can you imagine a world where this could be the norm? If they can read it and still be priests, I probably wouldn’t go to hell for reading it, so read it I did.
Aside from opening my eyes to choices outside my mom’s iron curtain, reading The Catcher in the Rye showed me that banned books, much like the rest of life, are mostly hype. I was actually disappointed by the general lack of offensive material. And when it came down to it, I thought Salinger’s Franny and Zooey was a much better book. But I wouldn’t have been able to form that opinion if I were afraid to read it in the first place. And that’s really what banned books are about: fear. Someone is afraid you will lose all ability to be yourself (or perhaps what they want you to be) if you are allowed to read a book, which is just ridiculous.
A special thanks to that priest (or brother) who indirectly opened my eyes to the possibility of creating my own reading list and thinking for myself.
Jack is the designer at Fulcrum. He appreciates looking out his window and seeing mountains instead of cornfields, and bumper stickers that say Naive instead of Native. Some of his favorite projects have been ones that have overlapped with and informed his own experiences in the West.
- Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom To Read (http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/)
- It’s Here…Banned Book Week!!!!! (mylibrarycardworeout.wordpress.com)
- Banned Books Week: What subversives are you reading? (via Insatiable Booksluts) (peacepoetrypotter.wordpress.com)