Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Book Week, Day 5: Read this and irritate a censor

Remember: Whenever someone reads a banned book, an angel gets its wings.

Today the p3 celebration of Banned Book Week spotlights a book that's frequently on somebody's censorship to-do list, even though its title has become one of the most widely recognized (and used) catch phrases out there: Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

It was love at first sight.

The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.

Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled by the fact that it wasn't quite jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn't become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.

Each morning they came around, three brisk and serious men with efficient mouths and inefficient eyes, accompanied by brisk and serious Nurse Duckett, one of the ward nurses who didn't like Yossarian. They read the chart at the foot of the bed and asked impatiently about the pain. They seemed irritated when he told them it was exactly the same.

"Still no movement?" the full colonel demanded.

The doctors exchanged a look when he shook his head.

"Give him another pill."

Nurse Duckett made a note to give Yossarian another pill, and the four of them moved along to the next bed. None of the nurses liked Yossarian. Actually the pain in his liver had gone away, but Yossarian didn't say anything and the doctors never suspected. They just suspected that he had been moving his bowels and not telling anyone.


Chuck Butcher said...

You're starting to make me nervous since I've read all these books, so far. When do they come for me?

For something relentlessly subversive in a chaotic and indirect way can I suggest John Gardner's 'The Sunlight Dialogues' It probably was never banned...

What is probably defining of my nastiness is that I truly admired the artistry of all the books and was in some way changed by them or validated. I, no doubt, should be removed from moral society.

Thanks Nothstine for the public service.

Nothstine said...

Hey, Chuck--

>I, no doubt, should be removed
>from moral society.

When you phrase it that way, it's actually sort of an honor, isn't it?

I think that, if I made it to comfortable old age but my epitaph said "Never wrote anything anyone tried to ban," I'd feel a little disappointed, whatever else I'd accomplished.

There are new books getting the censorship treatment almost every day, it seems (here's the 2007 list from the ALA), but I chose a lot of old war-horses to celebrate this week, many or most of which have since been "mainstreamed." I liked the idea that what begins as controversial and dangerous often ends up familiar and accepted.

That's not much help for books that are struggling to stay on the shelf right now, of course. They need friends too.


Chuck Butcher said...

sometimes I wonder what it is that makes a "moral society" and if being any part of it involves a lack of conscience. Sunlight Dialogues is a strange exercise, but it does involve that question. Gardner always seemed to ask very big questions in very strange ways and yet bore down into the small questions that seem to me to determine character. His death saddened me, I'd hoped for so much more.

I recognized your agenda with the "old war horses" and I think it probably is the most constructive.

I'll probably never write anything good enough to get it banned, but I may have trouble with airlines... Up until the middle of this year I kept pretty close track of ISPs going into my blog, HRinfosys, SenSgtArms, Pentagon, and some Langley and etc address w/.gov that could have been ??? I sincerely hope I've been annoying.

Some of that traffic is friendly, there are some US pols that know and like me - even on the 'net.

I'm here almost daily even if I don't comment much. You wouldn't recognize me by my ISP since it shows Portland. If you're curious what it is (it wanders sometimes) subtract about 10 minutes from this comment.