Maybe it’s a stretch to ascribe purpose, but three events of the last 48 hours have set off harmonic vibrations and my ears are ringing.
Yesterday, a friend and regular reader of my You Can’t Read That! posts forwarded a short story by K.J. Parker, “Burning Books for Pleasure and Profit,” about a dealer in incunabula who’s given a death sentence when he’s ordered to translate an ancient scroll, a dangerous document with the potential to undermine and destroy society’s religious foundations. Earlier that day I had started reading Paul McAuley’s novel “Beyond the Burn Line,” wherein an amateur archeologist, a member of the species of furry mammal which inherit the planet after we kill each other off, digs up forgotten human knowledge and technology. Then this morning I realized the next book in my queue of Kindle to-reads is “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr., a classic dystopian novel about cloistered monks who, hundreds of years from now, preserve the writings of a past civilization without understanding them.
It’s interesting that my new year should start off with three coincidental banned-bookish events. What am I getting from this convergence? A renewed sense of optimism with regard to the current wave of censorship and know-nothingism. To censor is a basic human impulse. We always try to suppress the writings and ideas we fear. It is, at best, a temporary fix. If I may paraphrase, knowledge wants to be free.
Still, the suppression of books and ideas, while doomed in the long run, hurts individuals and societies in the short run … hello Dark Ages, hello post-Code Hollywood, hello school libraries all over the U.S. Support your local banned-book blogger!