Do Americans want to ban 'Brave New World'?

In the annual list of most challenged books in American libraries, there lies Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" at No. 3. And, oh look, "Twilight" is at No. 10.

I am not sure what sorts of people go to libraries these days.

I had always assumed that Google and Amazon had corralled the library system between them, leaving few with the need to go and sit next to the coughing, the chatting, and the lonely.

But it seems that people do still go to libraries and still object to some of the books they see there. It so happens that the American Libraries Association, conscious of its continuing role in monitoring the national mood and culture, issues a list of those books that have been challenged by individuals or news organizations in 2010.

And there, at No. 3, sits one of the more joyous works of science fiction, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".

Should you have not managed to encounter this book, it is a clearly seditious tome that offers such ideas as "Community, Identity and Stability" being the motto of a World State in the mid-21st century.

It offers such utterly nonsensical notions as people taking a drug called "soma" to battle depression. It also offers the idea that the highest form of entertainment will be a James Cameron 3D movie. Well, actually, in the book it's called a "feelie", and it gets you all over. That's a similar reaction to the one I get when I watch a James Cameron movie.

The book has enjoyed some wonderful cover art. CC alaina.buzas/Flickr

Oddly, the book also predicts a lack of individuality, which, some might feel, could never have been imagined by those behind the drive to globalization.

You might be wondering what about this book some people found so objectionable. According to the ALA, the first reason given was "insensitivity." Perhaps that's why the book has, at times, been banned from high school reading lists.

I know that in the world of political correctitude, insensitivity is a crime worthy of 20 years in the state pen. But it is remarkable that someone believes a book should be removed from a library because of its lack of, well, utter blandness.

The ALA's Challenge Reporting Form offers all sorts of potential objections--anything from nudity to satanism. But the other three boxes ticked by those who would wish "Brave New World" banned were "offensive language," "racism," and "sexually explicit."

I know that there are those who believe that Huxley's classic offers a remarkable accurate prognostication of today's world of gadgets and anomie. There are even those who read Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's "Delivering Happiness" and, on learning about "fun", "happiness" and "play," find themselves uncontrollably transported to Huxley's World State.

Still, we ought to put the views of those who filled out the ALA's form into reasonable relief.

I am sure that "Brave New World" has a long way to go to catch up to the No. 1 book, "And Tango Makes Three," a children's tale about two loving male penguins at the Central Park Zoo.

And there, lurking at No. 10, is perhaps the most threatening book of recent times. Yes, I give you that repository of violence and religious dubiousness written by a woman who should surely have known better.

Yes, at No. 10 is "Twilight."

 

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