Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banning Books Makes Me Completely Mental, I Must Say

Ed Grimley, one of Martin Short's characters on the television series SCTV (and later reprised on Saturday Night Live), had many excellent catch phrases, but "Makes me mental, I must say" is particularly appropriate for one of today's banned or challenged books.

"Totally Decent, I Must Say"

ALA Banned Books Week continues with a book that would make anybody "completely mental."  If you want to know what life in an insane asylum was like during the 1940s, you get an up-close, personal, and in-depth view in The Snake Pit, by Mary Jane Ward, a native Hoosier (born 1905, in Fairmont, Indiana; died 1981).  The novel is heavily autobiographical, portraying Ward's true mental institutional encounters within a fictional context.  When you finish the book, you wonder which side of the metal mesh doors houses the crazier people--the "white coat" staff or their torture victims --er-- patients.

It was for this reason that The Snake Pit was banned from schools and public libraries.  The content was allegedly too traumatic for teenagers or even adults; more to the point, Ward's perspective suggesting that the medical profession's treatment of mental illness was draconian at best was too bitter a pill for establishment-supporting censors to swallow.  They cried foul and felt that readers' mental health would be much improved if they weren't burdened with Ward's grisly details from real-life experience.  And so, out Ward's book went from some schools and libraries.

Humorist Art Buchwald (1925-2007) once commented that he wished somebody would ban his books, because sales and readership would go through the roof thereafter.  Readers have found their way to The Snake Pit since it was first published in 1946, and, hopefully, they will continue to do so.  Out-of-sight, out-of-mind is an unacceptable attitude when people who need psychological care are being treated badly and harmfully.  Lucky for us felines that we never go crazy.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote many fine books, but his two classic tales were Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Both have been included in the juvenile collections at many public libraries and school libraries for over 100 years.

Some critics have attempted to ban both books from school and public libraries because of their violent subject matter (pirates in Treasure Island and a scientist's evil alter ego in Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) and encouragement of immoral behavior (again, by pirates and an evil dude).

During ALA Banned Books Week, or any other time, for that matter, you may find out for yourselves whether or not these books are too dangerous for you to read.

Read What You Choose, But Choose What You Read,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
BBW News Beat

P.S.  In this SCTV episode, as the "SCTV Movie of the Week," Ed Grimley stars as "The Nutty Lab Assistant," which parodies Jerry Lewis' title role in the movie The Nutty Professor (1963).  The Jekyll/Hyde dual personality theme in these cinematic gems is fairly obvious.  Enjoy the brilliance of Martin Short, played with fellow cast member Andrea Martin and Indiana's own John Cougar Mellencamp.

P.P.S.  Speaking of insanity and nervous breakdowns calls to mind two songs:  "Shine on Brightly," from the album of the same title by Procol Harum (1968), and the single "19th Nervous Breakdown" (1965) by the Rolling Stones.

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