Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Banned Books...Memories

Libraries in various places in the world have decided to memorialize the 9/11 attack on the USA by celebrating the banning of books. That's how it seems at first glance, although of course the idea is to glorify the freedom of speech promised by Democracy and to remember what bad things happen when societies practise censorship. Of course books are banned in democracies too, even today. In my opinion, the energy spent banning most books would be better spent educating people to become critical readers. Especially now, when the Internet is notoriously unfriendly to censorship.

I have vivid memories of two extraordinary people I "knew" who were directly associated with the publication of books banned for obscenity: Vladimir Nabokov and Pascal Covici.

Vladimir Nabokov was my Russian Literature and Comparative Literature teacher at college. During the summer of my sophomore year "Lolita" was published. It was banned in the USA, but friends who were fortunate enough to go to Paris that summer returned with suitcases full of English paperback copies. I regret that I was too much of a goody goody cheapskate to invest in buying one of them, but not so much of a goody goody that I didn't read it. Instead, I bought a copy of his less-controversial "Pnin," which he was gracious enough to autograph for me.

Pascal Covici became most famous as John Steinbeck's editor and friend. I met him and his wife Dorothy at a party at their Manhattan apartment, invited by my good friend Michael, Dorothy's nephew. Later, when Mrs. Covici had become a widow, Michael and I introduced her to my widowed mother, and as we had hoped, the two widows became good buddies. It was then that Mrs. Covici told us all about her honeymoon with Pascal. They were married in Chicago, and for their wedding trip they took a train from Chicago to New York, carrying smuggled copies of "Ulysses" as evidence for the judge(s) to read in the famous trial. At the time, and to this day, I can think of no honeymoon more exciting and romantic than that.


Lesser_Lumpkin said...

Heh. You and my wife have a lot in common as far as your love of books go. Indeed the banned books list in America is a total joke. Not only is everything under the sun on there but the books themselves are taught in schools.

The Lumpy

Tan Lucy Pez said...

Wow. You've meet some interesting folks! Lucky you.

I'm with you on the subject of banned books.

Fred said...

Ditto what TLP said.

Savtadotty said...

Welcome, Lesser Lumpkin. Be careful about those "jokes" though. They can turn ugly when too many of the Wrong People are in power.

TLP, Fred - I have been lucky. And I'm still meeting interesting folks, but who knows who among them(you) will be famous 20 years down the road?

Jo said...

Wow! Neato!

Julie said...

I'm totally nonplussed. Nabokov was your Russian Lit professor???? Wow! And yeah, that's quite a honeymoon. Mine pales in comparison.