There was a time in my childhood when I just assumed that there was a nameless “they” who somehow would “not let you print” dirty words. I don’t recall what words I thought were dirty enough to fall under the ban, but judging from the podcast on the fight to publish Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which battle was fought during that phase of my childhood (1957), I wasn’t far off the mark.
The prosecutor had a slam-dunk case, since Howl not only included the f-word, but associated it with a human anatomical feature more commonly associated with scat than with eros, and to complete the trifecta celebrated repeated explorations that and another orifice with a series of men. Oh: the poet was a man, too, in case you didn’t know.
Remarkably, despite a disconcerting Judge assignment for the bench trial, the criminal defendants were able to capitalize on a recent Supreme Court precedent to get a ringing acquittal. That summary leaves out a ton of fun, colorful and diverting details.
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Things have changed somewhat in the last 62 years. There has not been even one prosecution of a poem, successful or unsuccessful, during that interval. There’s almost nothing, poetic or not, that “they” don’t let you print, in a prior-restraint sense, and there’s not even that much they can punish you for publishing after you’ve done the dastardly deed.
But that’s not the end of the story. We now have NGOs to serve as censors. The 800 pound gorilla, Amazon.com, may refuse to sell it after you’ve printed it.
The “it” here is not “dirty words,” but the entire written œuvre of one Joseph Nicolosi, one of whose theories aggrieved our most potent interest group — the group given to alternate uses of bodily orifices. I know he aggrieved them, and I assume that their ire had something to do with Amazon’s decision to make Nicolosi an un-person.
Poof! Gone! (Well, maybe they sell your book if you vilify him, but none of his books.)
For all I know they’ve banned other heretics, damn them.
And that’s why I now have a preferential option for Barnes & Noble, which I visited this afternoon to acquire my “deluxe hardcover commemorative facsimile edition of” Howl, including the City Lights branding (along with a larger volume of poetry and an earlier-in-the-day ebook).
You, too, can make Barnes & Noble your preferential option. There’s even a free Nook app for your smartphone or pad, and a list of ebooks that’s nothing to snort at. There’s nothing wrong with other online options or with making your local indie bookstore your preferential option for tangible books, either.
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I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).