Fear in Writing: Obscenity

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Today in Literary History...March 25, 1955: The U.S. Customs Department confiscates 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg's book Howl, which had been printed in England. Officials alleged that the book was obscene.

Obscene: For something to be "obscene" it must be shown that the average person, applying contemporary community standards and viewing the material as a whole, would find (1) that the work appeals predominantly to "prurient" interest; (2) that it depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and (3) that it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. (LectLaw.com)

For more on banned books, check out The Dangerous Pages Review.


  1. Oh- my bad --today in literary history in 1955!

  2. "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..." Well, "Howl" is certainly something. Poor guy never did levitate the Pentagon. :-)

  3. Summer- too true, but the Beat lives on.

  4. eh, I love when books get obscene, using your first and second definition of the word :)

  5. I hate when they ban books. Let the readers, or parents in the case of YA/Children's fiction, decide.

  6. Banning book drives me batty! I've actually read a few books in my classroom that have been banned in other places. Some people are afraid of ideas. *grrrr*

  7. I loved "Howl." I don't understand how people think that banning books and poetry is the right way to go. Ban YOURSELF from reading it. Don't ban others. So infuriating.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  8. Banning books isn't right! One should have the right to choose what books they read and don't read!

  9. How dare they decide for everyone else! I despise book banning. It and book burning should have been vanquished along with the nazis, but, unfortunately, all of them persist in one place or another today.

  10. I loved Howl too. Meeting Ginsberg was a highlight of my life so far! When he died, a bunch of us got together and read Howl out loud.

  11. I have seen some of the far-from-best minds of that generation write some scary judicial opinions, and this was one of them.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  12. I had a parent tell me today she didn't want her son to read Water for Elephants for my class because it had curse words in it.

    Her son is 16. I totally respect people's views, but I've discovered I do have issues with people banning literature for reasons like that.


  13. I have an award for you over on my blog!!! Check it out when you get a chance :)

  14. Some books should be banned from our schools as being obscene. Yes, there is freedom of speech, but some people put out pure unadulterated crap that is clearly obscene and should not be read in public shools.

    Stephen Tremp