Saturday, September 29, 2007

Banned Books Week Begins Today

Today is the beginning of Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, an annual event sponsored by the American Libraries Association.

As a librarian and a life-long library use, I'm a big proponent of freedom of choice in reading. Book banning has been with us for centuries, and alas, still is, although these days it's called "challenging" whether or not a book should be allowed in a public or school library.

Historically, books have been banned because of content or language, usually sexual or political in nature.

I've recently been reading the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, a Sanskrit sex and etiquette manual written 1700 years ago, but not translated into English until 1883, by the famous explorer Sir Richard Burton. His edition was quietly published by the Kama Shastra Society and remained "underground" for another eighty years. It wasn't legally published in the U.S. until the 1960's.

Fanny Hill or The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland is widely regarded as the first erotic novel. First published in 1749, it depicted the life of a young courtesan with more detail than seen before. More scandalous, perhaps, is the fact that Fanny is "of a warm nature" and doesn't seem to mind being a woman of pleasure. The most shocking scene for the time is one in which Fanny observes the activities of two gay men, a scene Cleland swore he did not write, but which he claimed was inserted later in a pirated edition.

Both author and publisher were arrested for "corrupting the King's subjects", but were cleared and released. Fanny Hill was banned in the United States in 1821 and not cleared until 1966 when the Supreme Court decided it did not meet the standard for obscenity, i.e. "without redeeming social importance".

By today's standards, Fanny Hill seems fairly tame. The sex scenes are full of florid language and the kind of euphemisms that are so often criticized in historical romances, but there's never any question of who is doing what to whom. Since Fanny's true love returns at the end to marry her, giving the book a happy ending and redeeming her in society's eyes, may be another reading for the original banning. She didn't pay for her crimes against society.

That's one of the reasons E. M. Forster cited for his inability to get his homosexual love story Maurice published when he wrote it before World War I. As Forster explained the situation: 'If it ended unhappily, with a lad dangling from a noose or with a suicide pact, all would be well... But the lovers get away unpunished and consequently recommend crime.' The book was finally published in 1971, four years after the English laws had changed.

According to the ALA site, a children's picture book titled And Tango Makes Three tops their 2006 list of most challenged books.

"Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s award-winning "And Tango Makes Three," about two male penguins parenting an egg from a mixed-sex penguin couple, tops the list of most challenged books in 2006 by parents and administrators, due to the issue of homosexuality."

Hm, what's the old saw about the more things change, the more they remain the same?

Similarly, books are still banned and challenged for political reasons. These include Salmon Rushdie's Satanic Verses and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, among other classics. The Christian Bible has been banned in Malaysia and its publication and distribution are monitored and controlled by the government of The People's Republic of China. In recent years. Twain's classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been challenged for politically incorrect language.

So, celebrate your freedom to read this week. Pick up a banned book!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Libra!

Tomorrow is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of autumn as well as the day the sun enters the Zodiac sign of Libra.

That realization had me reaching for my copy of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs, a classic of astrological literature and an excellent introduction to the signs. (It can also be very useful to writers looking for help with characterization, esp. in showing how the signs relate to each other.)

Actually, until I first read Sun Signs, way back in the 1970s, I used to say astrology was bunk, because for an Aries, I was a pretty typical Scorpio. But when I read Linda Goodman's description of Aries, I was able to relate to much of what she said. So I read a bit more, then signed up for a class at the local Y and discovered I had Scorpio Rising.

LOL, when I registered for that first class, my thought was "six weeks and I'll know all about astrology". But that was only the first class of many, as I discovered that learning astrology is like peeling the proverbial onion. There are layers upon layers upon layers. Though I don't study the craft any more, I still find it fascinating, so thought I'd explore the subject a bit here on a monthly basis.

The sign Libra is represented by the Scales, leading people to think it is the sign of balance, when as every Libran knows, it is really the sign of imbalance. Librans are known for their indecisiveness. Years ago, someone circulated a list of Sun Sign prayres, many of which I've forgotten, but I remember Libra's prayer:

Lord, help me to be more decisive. On the other hand, do what you think is best.

Linda Goodman swears that Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame is a Libran.

Libra is a cardinal sign. Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) are "the initiators of the Zodiac" according to Cardinal signs are goal-oriented, though some (especially Arians) are better at starting than finishing.
However, Libra's cardinal quality is tempered by it being an Air Sign.

Air means thinking, and with reason comes doubt, hence Libra's reputation for indecisiveness. As an Aries (a fire sign), I'm used to making gut decisions. Aries and Libra are polar opposites on the zodiac which means they complement each other. IMO, the best decisions come from taking a look at all the options, pros and cons, and only then checking to see what your gut says.

Libra is ruled by the planet Venus. It's the seventh sign of the Zodiac, which corresponds to the seventh house of the astrological chart, the house of marriage and relationships. In general, Librans are lovers not fighters, who hate conflict.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Dwight David Eisenhower, commander of the Allied Armies during World War II, was a Libran. A Libra general may seem like a contradiction in terms, but Ike was not just a general, he was a diplomat, too. He managed to rein in his subordinates, including such well known prima donnas as Patton and Montgomery, and got them to work together as a team. As president, he projected calm and balance that comforted a nervous country in the midst of a Cold War and nuclear arms race.

Other famous Librans include Julie Andrews, Sarah Bernhart, John Lennon, Mickey Mantle, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oscar Wilde.

For more information on Libra, go to

Lyndi / Linda

Monday, September 3, 2007

Muse On Vacation

(Note: This blog was originally posted at

August wasn't a good writing month for me. I've decided my muse must be European, probably French, because she took the entire month off!

Since some of my friends at Servants of the Muse have been naming their muses, I've decided to call mine Clio, after the traditional muse of history. As some of you may know, I'm a total history freak, but that's a topic for another day. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to get Clio back to work.

When we chose Servants of the Muse as the name of our group, we weren't kidding. We know who is in charge and it isn't us. It's those dang, contrary, whimsical, trickster muses of ours. And mine seems to be more erratic than others. I'd love to borrow Adrianna's muse, but I don't think she wants to share. LOL, it probably wouldn't work anyway.

This may sound crazy to a non-writer, but inspiration isn't something that can be commanded at will. At least not for me. I don't know where Clio really lives -- out somewhere in the ether or in the hidden recesses of my subconscious, but I do know that she has a mind of her own and a wicked sense of humor.

So what's a writer to do when her muse goes on vacation?

Sometimes meditation and/or affirmations help. Music is usually good at quieting my inner editor, but it has to be the right music for the story or Clio won't cooperate.

Last week I gave up on writing and played instead, creating a new book trailer video for my latest paperback anthology, Lusty Liaisons. I'm hoping that giving myself permission to play for a bit will help fill the well and call up some inspiration. Here's a link to view the video.


Today is Labor Day, which means it's time for Clio and me to get back to work. If anyone has any suggestions on how to locate an errant muse, please let me know.

In the meantime... Clio, call home. Please.