Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This day in history ...

As Fred Kaplan writes in the Times:
TODAY is the 50th anniversary of the court ruling that overturned America’s obscenity laws, setting off an explosion of free speech [...] The historic case began on May 15, 1959, when Barney Rosset, the publisher of Grove Press, sued the Post Office for confiscating copies of the uncensored version of D. H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel "Lady Chatterley’s Lover," which had long been banned for its graphic sex scenes.
In an earlier case that tried to set the standard for obscenity in a more "hung-up" society, The Supremes opined that "implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance." Yes, OK, some of us may take issue with that, but let's move on. The new question that Rosset and his lawyer would ask is: What about literary art works that may have what some would call obscenity in them but that also included literary content that was infused with easy to prove socially redeeming value?

There was a loophole in the logic and the law was changed. Now we can go to the bookstore and buy or have some strange person on eBay mail us a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer that begins:
I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.
This already feels like a dirty book, yes?

I think I'll celebrate by walking to the best bookstore in the world and buying a particularly dirty book, albeit one with socially redeeming value.

(Maybe an Acker title, but also Miller or Sukenick or Delany.)

To be followed by marking up more revisions for my next novel, itself a bit loose and freestyle in the way it mashes-up sexuality, art and labor ...

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