Ban This Book!
And with that, we've lost them. Into the stacks they go in search of better, more difficult, books. Books better suited to the advanced reader. The reader with refined tastes. They never seem to question why we stand here, at the front, and give them this chance. Just the once. No. They are here in pursuit of knowledge, dark and dangerous and unignorable, and all hidden in plain sight on these shelves. Neatly ordered with gold numbers on the spines. It is a good idea. To keep them all in one place, the books with an infamy all of their own. Helps to keep track of the collectors too. Hunters of rare manuscripts with bibliophilic fingers in search of pages, lightly foxed. All so eager to sign their names for that shiny black card.
'Member: The Library of Banned Books'
They all end up here in the end. Once their shelves groan under first editions, rare misprints, masterpieces their authors left on the train or in a taxi. In search of something - stronger. Like the epicure who, bored of the basics, bored of lobster and foie gras, decides that they would - in fact - be fine with covering their heads in a clean white cloth so god couldn't see as they ate a songbird freshly fried. Freshly alive. If it meant they would know what it tasted like.
Just like those diners, the book collectors come here to see, just to ask you understand, exactly what would it feel like, a book bound in human skin? Or a book, they've heard, has a devil trapped within. And we show them. We lend it to them. And when they return for the grimoire of this, the necronomicon of that, we give those to them as well. They enjoy the smell of the leather reading chairs, the buzz of the dim bulbed lecterns and the squeak of the stairs that roll around the stacks on casters. They enjoy sharing furtive looks between each other, jealously eyeing each others' finds and making notes for future reservations.
There are accidents, of course. Some books really ought not be opened, but is it our job to say by whom? No. Of course not. Libraries offer information to all it is not our job to police it. Nobody should police it. Why bother, to what end? Those who need information, find it, there is always another library ready to lend. Always a friendly bookseller around to post the offending inoffensive item. We believe all books should be to hand. Upon request. So, should a book run overdue, and the member not respond to our polite request for renewal or payment of fines (which is highly unusual considering our very specific guidelines on the non-return of items) then we send out the assistants to bring the book home. To - catalogue - whatever happened to the borrower. It is a shame, but it happens, we make the best of the situation. Even books of human skin require re-binding, from time to time.
It is stated in our motto. The line on which we stand. "All books, at all times, for all people." Which makes it tricky when there is one book, one among thousands, that whilst we cannot stop being borrowed we do rather feel it ought not be easy to do so. Feel it should be discouraged. Heavily. But how does one ban a book, without actually doing so? Well. The problem with experts, with collectors, those in the know, Is that they are keen to prove it. So, on their first visit to the branch, each new member is shown the book. The one we'd prefer they left. Told they would like it. And they would. Immensely! It is precisely why they are here. But, bound in plain cloth and card - not even leather - and presented as an easy option it is discounted every time. It is not offered again and not once has it been asked after.
What is inside remains hidden. Whatever it is. The damage it could do remains undone. No matter what the book keeps whispering if held to ones ear it will not be issued. But ban it? Ban this book? My my, the very idea...
It’s intolerable. A book that lists so many crimes and horrors yet is revered. Why? Because it’s old? DeSade wrote a book in the Eighteenth century about cruelty and sadism but that’s not sanctified.
Can a book take on a cloak of decency by venerating old stories of primitive rites and customs which destroyed communities and brought despots to power?
I read this long volume to discover the secret. It was a historic record of many sacrifices and travails but lacked all reverence for individuals’ rights. It told of the futility of female power, except as the seducers of important men. It glorified fables of divine superiority granted to one race over others and rejoiced in the destruction of other peoples.
Viewed in the light of modern minds and social media, it must be banned. It is called The Bible.
In my teens my mother found
my stack of girlie magazines
and threw them in the bin,
but to stem the flood of hormones
romping through my adolescent veins
was a battle she could never hope to win.
In 1933 Adolf Hitler lit the skies
of Germany by setting fire to books,
an attempt to eradicate by burning
three thousand years of learning.
But the sparks came down to rest on
Hamburg, Cologne and Dresden.
In the Kremlin Putin has decreed a law
that Russians mustn’t speak of war,
fifteen years incarceration for those
who don’t say ‘special operation’.
His Thought Police are on their way
controlling what the people say.
In the Moscow underground
a woman dressed in blue and yellow
didn’t make a sound,
but spoke louder than
any megaphone that
Putin may have found.