* To celebrate Banned Books Week, many bookish folk are reading from their favorite banned books and posting the videos on YouTube, which is awesome.
But I'm going to do something a little less high-road. What follows is my list of filthy, but fantastic, books that are (and probably at one point have been) easy targets for book banners. Just so we're crystal clear, I'm not AT ALL suggesting that these books be banned. I'm only suggesting that they're easy pickins for the type of people who do try to ban books.
That is to say, if people who tried to banned books actually read or understood good literary fiction, these would probably certainly be near the top of their list. But they don't, usually. So it's a pretty safe bet that some chucklehead in, say, Wakefield, Mass., who, say, banned Harry Potter, probably isn't going to have a good working knowledge of Philip Roth. In other words, he's ignorant of Philip Roth. And isn't ignorance the dominant characteristic of a book-banner anyway?
And, so without further adieu, here is my Top Five Books That Would Be Banned If Ignorant Idiots Had Their Way:
5. Sabbath's Theater, by Philip Roth — Everyone knows about the liver scene in Portnoy's Complaint, but Roth's National Book Award-winning (1995) novel is probably his filthiest. Mickey Sabbath, the novel's 64-year-old sex-tagonist, in one memorable scene, um, chokes the bishop on the grave of his dead wife. And that's one of the more tame scenes.When I finished this novel, I wrote: "I don’t know whether...I’m in awe of Roth, or terrified of him, or just grossed out by how perverted he seems to be." Good times!
4. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami — This was the first Murakami book I'd read, and after hearing about his ethereal prose and how his novels hinge upon their own metaphysical logic, I was surprised by the sheer amount of sex in this novel. Careful: includes lesbians.
Lamb, by Christopher Moore — Lest you think I'd only consider dirty sexual novels ban-worthy, here we have a satiric look at the life of Jesus Christ, told by his childhood pal Biff. If the ultra-religious type gets itchy about Harry Potter, my God, reading (or kids reading, God forbid!) this novel would cause paroxysms of penance prayer on par with news that the Rapture is imminent.
2. Beat the Reaper, by Josh Bazell — There are certainly a lot of options for books that would meet the "way too violent" criteria, but I picked this one, because I loved it, and because it's so-over-the-top violent, I couldn't look away — including a ball-shrivelingly violent ending that will leave you fetal-positioned. I'll let Rachel of A Home Between Pages explain, as she did in a comment on my review: "When I got to the end of Beat the Reaper, I literally sat there with my mouth hanging open, holding the book over my head, going Oahhmaahhhgawd!!!!!"
1. Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, by Tom Robbins — One of the funniest novels I've ever read is also one of the filthiest. It includes some, um, non-traditional, sex with a nun. And that's I probably all I need to say about this novel's gross-out factor. But it's awesome (the novel, not necessarily the fact that it includes nun sex).
What would be on your list?
*Banned Books Week, if you're unfamiliar, is an almost 30-year-old week-long celebration of books that at one point or another have been, well, banned. Check out this awesome map of censorship activity just in 2010 — 348 just in one year. Ugh!