Opinion

Where to find the New Year and banned books

In ancient times New Year’s was celebrated at the end of the harvest. People had various rituals to mark the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one. For example, they would extinguish the old hearth fire and light a new log.

It was Julius Caesar who declared that Jan. 1 would be New Year’s Day in 46 B.C. He dedicated the month to Janus, the god of gates, doors and beginnings. Janus had two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward. Giving small presents and extending New Year’s wishes became established customs. Except for the gifts, New Year’s Day still is celebrated as it was in Julius Caeser’s reign.

Chinese New Year begins Feb. 5, 2019. It will be the year of the pig. People celebrate by ringing bells, clashing cymbals and dressing as dragons to promote good luck and to amuse the children. Different religions designate different times to begin their New Years.

Years ago, husbands often gave their wives small amounts of money for purchasing bejeweled pins to wear. “Pin Money” is a phrase still used today. It means to give small amounts of cash.

Happy 2019 from your Washington Public Library!

Attempts to control and silence the written word have existed as long as published literature itself.

The American Library Association’s yearly “ BANNED BOOK WEEK” shines a light on how censorship continues to affect authors and readers today. The roots of book banning stretch deep into the past.

Qin Shi Huang (221-210 B.C.) a powerful ruler who consolidated China’s empire and standardized its language, bureaucracy and calendars, left an indelible mark on the history of his people. It is rumored that he had many Confucian texts destroyed, fearing they would be used to undermine support for his rule. Some historians now question this and believe the writings were lost when a fire destroyed most of the Imperial Library during the fall of the Qin capital. The truth will always remain a mystery.

The Florence book burnings of the fanatical priest Savonarola were so notorious, they made “bonfire of the vanities” a common cultural reference. Tom Wolfe wrote a book, with that title. In addition to “immoral” books, the bonfire was meant to destroy luxuries that lead to sin---fancy clothes, art, cosmetics.

The Catholic Church’s power rivaled that of any Empire in 1559, when it created a list of banned books “Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” New editions continued to be published up until 1948. It was not until 1968, that it was taken out of circulation. That consists of over four centuries of Roman Catholic regulation of reading material. Influential and brilliant works by Immanuel Kant, Simone de Beauvoir, John Milton and C.S. Lewis were on that banned list.

William Pynchon’s “The Meritous Price Of Our Redemption” was the first book to be banned in the New England colonies. His critique of Puritanism so outraged his fellow colonists that Pynchon was forced to return to England.

Dr. Thomas Bowdler popularized a new term in the vocabulary of book censorship, ”bowdlerize.” His 1807 edition of 24 collected Shakespeare plays, remains infamous for attempting to make the bard’s dramas tame enough for polite society by editing out the obscene and vulgar sections. The series was titled “The Family Shakespeare.”

Libraries have always been strong defenders of “FREEDOM OF SPEECH” and “FREEDOM TO READ.” Parents are free to guide their children’s choices. However, censorship should not belong to the government (federal or state) the church, the school, or the library.

Books are judged by the content within their pages. The most common citations being: 1) Racial Issues 2) Irregular lifestyles 3) Blasphemous Language 4) Sexual Situations or Dialogue 5) Violence 6) Witchcraft 7) Religious Affiliation 8) Political Bias 9) Age Appropriate.

Sometimes misjudgements or misunderstandings arise concerning a book. This is why censored or banned books are listed and reviewed yearly. This encourages readers to form a fresh outlook and develop a more current opinion.

Second Floor Glass Display Bookcase holds a variety of books that were once banned. All of these are available for checkout. Also, for take home material, you also will find some interesting booklists of titles that were once banned and why.