Last week in The Independent, journalist Boyd Tonkin took a peculiar twist on the notion of "banned books," composing a list of dangerous texts that might turn anybody into a censor. Tonkin's list includes books about a series of taboo topics -- from Holocaust denial to pedophilia to terrorism -- that strangely never appear on banned book lists.
"Almost everyone - secular or religious, radical or conservative - believes in censorship at least some of the time. So debates about banning and proscription always turn on substance and degree. Next week, a project devised by London Libraries - with partners across the country - will give us a chance to sharpen our perceptions and clarify our ideas. The 'Banned Books' reader promotion will present 50 titles that for one reason or another have fallen foul of official censorship."
"Frankly, this selection errs too much on the cosy side. Many of the weirder prohibitions will reinforce a glib sense of superiority towards redneck Bible-bashers, small-town prudes and Stalinist apparatchiks. Other controversial books would pose far sharper questions to a liberal culture. So I have chosen ten works - none in 'Banned Books' - that might stir a tougher discussion of the costs, and benefits, of truly free expression. I don't think any should be banned, but should public libraries stock them? If so, which?"
Nancy Mattoon at Book Tryst provides great commentary on Tonkin's list.
So, what do you think?