Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009--Favorite Fantasy Authors

Today I am featuring two of my favorite fantasy authors who have had works challenged/banned.

RAY BRADBURY


Ray Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938.Although his formal education ended there, he became a "student of life," selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter.He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.

His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences.Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury's masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden.In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state.Other works include The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind.In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays.His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum "recommended reading" anthologies.

Ray Bradbury's work has been included in four Best American Short Story collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award, among others.In November 2000, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was conferred upon Mr. Bradbury at the 2000 National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me.The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve.In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me.I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along."


Perhaps the most ironic case of challenging/banning a book is of Fahrenheit 451, a book that is about the censorship of books in the future.  In this frightening future, firemen are not employed to put out fires, but to set fire to any households that own books. 

"Copies of "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, a science-fiction novel about book-burning and censorship, had some words blacked-out before being given to middle-school students, thus proving that irony is not dead." (source:  Associated Content

February 1, 1999


West Marion High School in Foxworth, a rural Mississippi town, is the place where recent events aimed at censorship occurred. The book, Fahenreit 451, was on the reading list for several of the English classes. However, after a parent complained to the superintendent about the use of the word "God damn" in the book, the book was removed from the required reading list. Interestingly, the complaint did not surface until the book report was due -- more than a month after the reading assignment was given. (source:  bannedbooksweek(dot)com)

J. R. R. TOLKIEN

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January, 1892 at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, but at the age of four he and his brother were taken back to England by their mother. After his father's death the family moved to Sarehole, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham. Tolkien spent a happy childhood in the countryside and his sensibility to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his pictures.


His mother died when he was only twelve and both he and his brother were made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward's School, Birmingham, where Tolkien shone in his classical work. After completing a First in English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien married Edith Bratt. He was also commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the battle of the Somme. After the war, he obtained a post on the 'New English Dictionary' and began to write the mythological and legendary cycle which he originally called 'The Book of Lost Tales' but which eventually became known as 'The Silmarillion'.

In 1920 Tolkien was appointed Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds which was the beginning of a distinguished academic career culminating with his election as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Meanwhile Tolkien wrote for his children and told them the story of 'The Hobbit'. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel to 'The Hobbit' and gradually Tolkien wrote 'The Lord of the Rings', a huge story that took twelve years to complete and which was not published until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement Tolkien and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife's death in 1971. He died on 2 September 1973 leaving 'The Silmarillion' to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.


The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, perhaps two of the most celebrated fantasy works of all time, challenged/banned (even burned)!

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are banned from schools and libraries across the USA with some regularity. The ALA Banned Books Week website has J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings listed as “Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic. Source: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, Mar. 2002, p. 61.” (source:  Tolkien Guide)

"...they blame him for Dungeons & Dragons and all other Role Play Games, computer games other than chess, heavy metal music, Columbine (& all other acts of teenage violence) and all other activities enjoyed by the young (mostly males). I am not sure if they have managed to blame Tolkien for sex yet, but that is only a matter of time." (source:  samizdata)

What do you think of the challenging/banning of the works of these great authors? 

If you have not read these books, I highly recommend that you do.

Happy (Banned) Reading!


2 comments:

I apologize for word verification, but I turned it off and had close to 50 spam comments within 12 hours (nobody has time for that) so I had to turn it back on. Sorry!

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  1. Great Post!

    I have an award for you:

    http://wordsmithonia.blogspot.com/2009/09/award-time-part-1.html

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  2. Fahrenheit 451 was my favorite school assignment followed by 1984. There were never any books banned at my school. I, or my mother, would have bought the book anyway. Fahrenheit 451 has always stuck with me, following me around in my thoughts.

    I thank Tolkien for inspiring generations of imaginative thinking, Dungeons & Dragons, and all the other 'terrible' things young people do.

    Nice picks,
    -David

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