Banned Books Week
In the 17th century, William Prynne had the stumps of his ears shorn and his cheeks branded with the letters S.L., standing for “seditious libeler” after he published pamphlets critical of Anglican clergymen. Such punishments are long gone in the UK and US, but as this year’s Banned Books Week gets under way, the chief executive of Index on Censorship has warned that the “anger of the mob” online has spawned a new, modern kind of censorship – particularly when it comes to young readers.
BBW was launched in the US in 1982, to mark what the American Library Association (ALA) said was a sudden surge in attempts to have books removed or restricted in schools, bookshops and libraries. Since then, more than 11,300 books have been “challenged”, with last year’s most controversial title the award-winning graphic novel This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki – “because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes”.
Organisers are keen to make the week a major part of the UK literary calendar and UK events this week include a discussion with Melvyn Bragg and members of the Salman Rushdie Campaign Group on The Satanic Verses controversy at the British Library, as well as David Aaronovitch, Irish author Claire Hennessy and publisher Lynn Gaspard exploring modern-day censorship at the Free Word Centre in London, as well as events and promotions in public libraries.