It’s Banned Books Week, and to commemorate it, all Going Public pieces this week come from books that were at one time banned in some part of the world. So saddle up and listen after the kids go to bed, because it’s all sex and politics up in here!
Lady Chatterley’s Lover (excerpt), by D. H. Lawrence
Read by Xe Sands
A couple weeks back, the lovely and talented Lorelei King tweeted a Huffington Post UK piece called, 50 Shades of Put It Away: The Worst Book Sex Scenes Ever – http://huff.to/QMYA53
And as I was cruising through the list, smiling here and there, cringing OFTEN, I was pulled up short by No. 29:
“Burning out the shames, the deepest, oldest shames, in the most secret places. It cost her an effort to let him have his way and his will of her. She had to be a passive, consenting thing, like a slave, a physical slave. Yet the passion licked round her, consuming, and when the sensual flame of it pressed through her bowels and breast, she really thought she was dying: yet a poignant, marvelous death.”
Oh HELL no…now you just back the truck back up there, HuffPo…you did not just throw down the gauntlet on a D.H. Lawrence bit, did you? DID YOU?
Well that simply could not stand. Of course it couldn’t. Not that Chatterley features the greatest sexy times, because many of them are just not all that sensually described (David Herbert had issues and an agenda, you know)…but I happen to actually *like* that particular bit.
So fast forward to this week, which is Banned Books Week, during which I try to record a snippet of Chatterley, just to be ornery, and just knew I had to record this particular bit to try and prove HuffPo wrong. So what if I recorded it last year…I knew I could do BETTER.
The exquisite graphic matches my copy of The Unexpurgated 1928 Orioli Edition. The quotation at the beginning is taken from Lawrence’s commentary on the novel. Originally published in 1928 in Florence, when finally published in its entirely in Britain, it was immediately subject to trial under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act (in which Penguin Books prevailed). The book has been banned in at least 8 countries, mostly for sexual content and prevalent use of profanity (words unprintable in 1928).
Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (excerpt), by John Cleland
Read by Mark Turetsky
Just a warning: this one really isn’t kid friendly. In the least.
For Banned Book Week, I’ve decided to record and upload a brief excerpt from John Cleland’s Fanny Hill, an arguably pornographic picaresque novel first published in 1748.
The early history of the novel is rife with accusations of pornography and the general erosion of the moral landscape, with books such as DeFoe’s Roxana or Moll Flanders facing their share of criticism for glorifying their immoral heroines. But neither of those comes close to the graphic depictions of sex you’ll find in Fanny Hill. In order to avoid the censor, Cleland couched his terms in metaphor. The men have “marble columns,” and “torpid machines,” and Fanny refers to her “flesh cushions” and the “greasy landscape” of the Madam. This obfuscation wasn’t entirely successful: Cleland was prosecuted for “corrupting the king’s subjects,” and the book was withdrawn. This led to several centuries of bootleg editions which didn’t always hew closely to the source text.
The book was banned in the US as recently as 1963, until the ban was lifted by the New York State Court.
In a strange way, Fanny Hill’s bizarre euphemisms for human sexual organs and acts finds an echo in modern erotica literature, though very few authors can match Cleland’s linguistic zenith (nadir?) in his description of the “oily balsamic injection.”
A little set-up for the scene: at this point, Fanny is living in an elegant brothel, and one her new customer, Mr. Barville, is something of a sadist and masochist. He and Fanny have just exhausted each other with subsequent thrashings, and they take a short break to eat and drink a little bit before renewing their pleasures.
Also, I should point out that this book is told from Fanny’s first person perspective. For this reason, it may seem problematic for a male narrator to tackle this text. Make no mistake, though, Cleland was hardly proficient at writing a female point of view, and I hope to engage with this reality through my reading.
Ariel Monologue, from The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
Read by Diane Havens
Banned Shakespeare? You bet. Several of his plays have been purged from school curricula for a number of reasons throughout the years.
This latest that baffles me is the banning of “The Tempest” one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays (which incidentally has as a central story element Prospero’s powerful books) — which is among a list of banned books in the state of Arizona by a resolution ” aimed at curbing resentment, government overthrow and ethnic distinction and separation in any district or charter school.”
Tom Jones – Book 1, Chapter 11, by Henry Fielding
Read by Mark Turetsky
Chapter 11 of Tom Jones.
This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones over the course of four years.
This chapter is chock full of some really interesting stuff. First off: if you’re unfamiliar with William Hogarth, he was an excellent artist and printmaker of the 18th Century. Some of my favorites of his works include the print series The Rake’s Progress, the diptych Beer Street and Gin Lane, and he even provided illustrations for the first editions of Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy. In this chapter, the Narrator refers to Miss Bridget’s having sat for Hogarth and that she was used as the model for the subject of Hogarth’s print of A Winter’s Morning, which you can find here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FourTimesMorning.jpg. If an author did this today, we’d accuse them of being Post-Modernist, but for Fielding, this was just the novel being, well, novel.
Also, this is the first usage of the phrase “nolo episcopari” to mean “a facetiously modest refusal of something which is actually desired” (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nolo_episcopari). Originally, the phrase was ritually used by men being offered the position of bishop. The man would turn down the offer twice out of modesty, by saying “nolo episcopari” (“I do not want to be a bishop) before finally succumbing on the third request. Here, it’s used by Miss Bridget to politely decline as well as encourage the advances of Captain Blifil.
Also, keep an ear out for Fielding’s great description of Blifil, with some fairly convoluted sentence constructions.