Yesterday at work a bright orange slip of paper caught my eye from between the pages of an innocent looking children’s book. It was on the trolley with all the recent returns, and the label adorning it proclaimed it was ‘banned’. Of course, I had to query this – why would a children’s book be banned, and if so, why would it be so conspicuously displayed (if at all)? To my great delight, one of the permanent staff at that library had begun a special and intriguing display – books of all kinds which have been banned at some time somewhere in the world.
The display had its own information booklet explaining why these books had been banned – some of the reasons are obvious and well-known, however others are rather surprising and just fascinating. It is common knowledge that modern American Fundamentalists hate the Harry Potter books with a passion, and that Nabokov’s Lolita caused uproar on its release – but I bet you didn’t know that the list contains such harmless titles as The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, or Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?
I spent some time supplying the small display with other titles from the booklet, and thought I’d share my favourite discoveries with you.
I hate to begin a post with a negative comment, but here it is: my attempt at the ’50 book challenge’ last year ended in tears. Tears as in the liquid kind, dear reader; after all, could you imagine a devotee such as me, defacing a book? Moving on swiftly… before I admit to the hundreds of condemned flyleaves torn out, date sheet still attached, or the inside covers stamped and scribbled upon for the purpose of book sale, or that one occasion I lost my temper with a so-called Christian book* which had ‘homosexuality’ marked as the opposite to ‘marriage’ in a neat little chart… I love and respect all books. Honestly.
However, after bravely beginning the year with Hans Christian Andersen (and realising I’d bitten off more than I could chew), I came to realise that not every book I may lay eyes upon will readily see me through until its last page. It is not with pride that I abandon a badly-chosen book, either for the nature or the SHEER AMOUNT of its content. Therefore in this year’s attempt I promise to avoid such books which threaten the average Bible girthwise.
Today, I worked at my city’s most haunted library. It’s located in the old Washington village some way out of town, in a house which was converted into a library quite a few years ago. It’s literally just a few yards from Washington Old Hall (see above), the ancestral home of the family of George Washington (yes, that George Washington), and also just over the road from a rather resplendent church.
I’ve heard so many stories about this tiny library before that it was not without a little amount of morbid curiosity that I went to work this morning. Last summer, someone swore to me that she had been on her own upstairs in the non-fiction section when she heard the floorboards creak; as if someone was walking over them. Then, she heard a loud metallic ring, as if someone was dragging something along the length of the cast iron radiator. Of course, there was no one there.
Apparently, a medium visited the building a while back and said that she had sensed an old man, sitting on a chair in the office. Another colleague even swears he was tapped on the shoulder from behind, and turned to see no one there. This phantom is allegedly the ghost of a man who worked in local studies, and which has also on occasion graced the local pub two doors up. Most of this was related to me by my co-worker, who happily told me that she herself had not seen a ghost, but admitted that ‘it does feel spooky up there sometimes’.