A New U.L.S. member, and a post on 1984 by George Orwell

Standard

uls-logo-11

Underground Library Society

Thank you to Robbie Cheadle for her post on 1984 by George Orwell. With this entry, Robbie has joined the U. L. s., the Underground Library Society, dedicated to opposing book censorship and book banning. Please visit her blog Robbie’s inspiration .

If a society similar to that depicted in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury were to somehow come into existence and all books were banned, I would want to be part of any group involved in preserving books. If that meant learning a book off by heart, I would be prepared to do that. The big question for me would be what book to choose.

Out of all the wonderful and amazing books out there, my choice is 1984 by George Orwell. My over view of this book and my reasons as to why I believe it is still relevant to us are as follows:

1984 is a dystopian novel that was written years ago to portray a possible future for mankind as envisaged by the author in 1949. Why would anyone want to read this book now? 1984 passed more than thirty years ago so why would this book still be a worthwhile read today? The answer is that the content and ideas presented in this book are still relevant and it portrays a future that is still a possible outcome for humanity if the threats to our existing lifestyles and our planet are not resolved and harsh totalitarian measures need to be introduced as a last desperate measure to save our world. The threat of world destruction using nuclear weapons is much less likely now than in 1949, but modern people merely face new threats and obstacles which are also of our own   creation.

1984 is set in a world where the inhabited landmasses are divided into three significant superpowers, all of which are ruled by political parties where the systems of government are centralized and dictatorial and require complete subservience to the state by their citizens. The three superpowers are continuously at war and their populations live in a state of perpetual deprivation and fear of being bombed. The reason for this state of affairs becomes clear to the reader at a later stage in the book.

Winston Smith, the hero of the story, is a member of the Party and this requires him to believe in their political mandate completely and entirely. No questioning of Party doctrine is tolerated in any form and the party has methods of policing every aspect of their members’ lives including their thoughts and dreams. Every party member has an invasive screen, in the manner of a modern television, which the party can access to spy on the activities of its members. Party members are encouraged to suppress any sexual feelings other than the need to reproduce and children belong to clubs and groups where they are effectively turned against their parents and encouraged to spy on them for the state. In this way, the Party has broken down all the natural human bonds and relationships and turned people into lonely individuals with no way of forming into dissenting groups.

Winston is a thoughtful man with a high intellect whose job involves changing previously printed news articles and books to recreate the past in the manner dictated by the current wants of the Party. Nothing is safe from intervention by the Party, which is represented by a giant picture of “Big Brother”. Even the dictionary is continuously being re-written to delete unnecessary words and party members are encourage to use a reduced version of language know as New Speak.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
― George Orwell, 1984

He questions the society he lives in with its continuous deprivation and lack of emotions and relationships. He thinks that things must have been better in the past. Winston believes that there is a brotherhood of dissenters who are working to overthrow the party. He believes one of its member’s is an inner party member whom he has interacted with by the name of O’Brien.

Winston decides to start recording his thoughts and ideas in a blank book, an action that is against Party rules, in case he ever gets the opportunity to share them with O’Brien and join the brotherhood.

Winston meets a young woman called, Julia, who is also a dissenter in her own young and uncomplicated way. Julia does not share Winston’s belief that the Party could be overthrown and a better life for people re-created. Julia’s approach is to breach Party rules and take the freedoms she desires in a non-confrontational way. Despite their significant differences in age and attitudes, Julia and Winston become physically involved and fall in love. This is against Party doctrine where the marriage of couples has to be approved and would not be if the couple were strongly attracted to each other.

Winston and Julia both know that they are risking their lives with their affair and other behaviours and, despite knowing the harsh consequences, are prepared to take the chance.

 

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

― George Orwell, 1984

The reason I believe this book is still so relevant is because we are living in a world on the brink of massive climate crisis and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Drastic action by the governments of the world will be required in the foreseeable future to remedy these massive issues. How will governments do this without taking decisive steps to control population growth and consumerism? If you think about these problems, the world of Winston Smith doesn’t seem so impossible.

To take this thought process one step further, we may already been on the slippery slope towards a totalitarian government. Our current environment of increasing nationalism, nativism and opposition to immigration, indicate that many people of moving away from the inclusive new world order that world leaderships worked towards in the aftermath of World War II. Have we forgotten the horrors of this war and the devastation and inhuman activities that took place? I think this book may be more valid now than ever before.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

George Orwell, 1984

author-1320965_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

uls-logo-31

Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle!

Advertisements

A Second List of Banned and Challenged Books

Standard

uls-logo-31

This is my second list of banned and challenged books. As the leader of the ULS, the Underground Library Society, I will continue to offer theses notices.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Ulysses by James Joyce

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Keep defending books and reading!

The Underground Library Society

uls-logo-11

book-863418_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

Banned Books Week and The U.L.S.

Standard

uls-logo-31

Banned Books Week — 9/22/19–9/28/19

And

The ULS: The Underground Library Society

books-3322275__480

(https://pixabay.com)

In honor of Banned Books Week, I wanted to revisit this information. As the creator of the ULS, The Underground Library Society, and at the request of several followers, I have decided to put up lists of books that have been banned or challenged. If a book is challenged, that usually means there were people who wanted it removed from a school or library.  Both are forms of book censorship. It is important to note that I am not focusing only on books banned or challenged in the United States of America; unfortunately, censorship is a world wide action.

Here is my initial list of banned and challenged books:

The entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling;

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee;

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain;

Beloved by Toni Morrison;

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie;

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger;

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck;

All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque;

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown; and

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

I will add more lists of banned and challenged books in the future.

And to all of you interested in joining the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, please send me an email with a word doc, and write about the book you would choose to save if we lived in a world in which books are illegal.   frenchc1955@yahoo.com

uls-logo-11

 

Quotations on Book Banning and Burning

Standard

Heinrich_Heine_(quadratic)

(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

(Moritz Daniel Oppenheim)

“Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people”

                                                                              Heinrich Heine

 

Salman_Rushdie_2011_Shankbone

(https://en.wikiquote.org)

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

                                                                            Salman Rushdie

 

president-john-kennedy-403379__340

(https://pixabay.com)

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”

                                                                         John F. Kennedy

charles-french

“Now is the time to speak. Now is the time for your words to be read and to be heard. I say to all writers: do not censor yourselves, and let your voices ring out into the world.”

                                                                      Charles F. French

 

Quotations on Censorship — Revisited

Standard

henry_louis_gates_2014_cropped

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.”

                                                                   Henry Louis Gates Jr.

 

dwight_d-_eisenhower_official_photo_portrait_may_29_1959

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

judyblume2009cropped

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”

                                                                    Judy Blume

The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade!

Standard

ULS Logo 3

I want to thank Amanda Cade for her wonderful guest post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society. She has an excellent blog, and I hope you take the time to visit her site: Amanda Cade

Underground Library Society: The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is, without question, one of the most captivating and disturbing books I’ve ever read. I was an early reader, and by the time I was five or six years old I was spending hours each day lost in the fascinating worlds of fiction. I received books for birthdays and Christmas, made weekly trips to the school and county libraries, and was the only kid I knew who was grounded from reading instead of television when I got in trouble at home. I still read every day, and in any given week I’ll finish between two and six books, depending on how busy my life is. So the picture of a world without books was, and still is, a deeply upsetting image.

When Dr. French extended his invitation to join the Underground Library Society, I knew I had to accept immediately. There was no question that I would, in this scenario, happily memorize and preserve a book. The difficulty was in choosing one of the thousands I have read in my lifetime, one of the hundreds that have played an important part in who am and how I see the world. At first, that decision was almost paralyzing, but when the answer came, it was so obvious I couldn’t believe it hadn’t immediately occurred to me. The book I can’t imagine being lost to the world is another work by Bradbury himself: The Martian Chronicles.

When I was in junior high school, one of my English teachers selected a short story or poem every week to read aloud to the class and form the basis for discussion. Her selections varied widely in tone, content, and genre, and looking back I realize that she must have been deliberately giving us a “tasting menu” of literature, hoping we would discover something that truly captured our interest. One week, her selection was Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

I think it’s important to emphasize once more exactly how much I had read at this point in my life. I was the stereotypical bookworm, with some (well, to be honest, a lot) of difficulty on the social scene, so for years I had spent most of my spare time reading. I was already reading on a high school level, and would finish most books in a day. On a weekend, I might read five. My point is that I was very familiar with the power of a good story, and if I had been self-aware enough to wonder if one of my teacher’s stories was going to create the transcendent moment she was hoping for, I would have been skeptical at best.

So I was unprepared for the impact of this particular story. If you haven’t read it, it’s set in Bradbury’s image of a smart house, a concept that is familiar today but was a pure dream when Bradbury wrote the story in 1950. It was still a dream when I heard the story in a 1980s classroom. As my teacher read, the picture of the house, with its cheerful robot voices and pampering machines, gripped my imagination more strongly than anything I had read in a long time. You see, for all of my years of nearly obsessive reading, I had yet to explore science fiction.

Shortly into the tale, my fascination with the setting was overcome with the uneasy realization that this magical house was empty. Now there was a mystery, and as Bradbury continued to describe the house’s routine and weave in clues, the unease gave way to understanding, and then to horror. The final image was so profoundly sad and disturbing that I found myself crying…and desperate to hear the story again.

I’ve searched my memory while writing this post, and while I can recall many times since then that I have had such a profound reaction to a story, I can’t think of one prior to that Friday afternoon class. That was the day that I began to move beyond reading for pleasure and started to read for theme, for understanding, for that so often elusive emotional resonance that Stephen King describe as something that “will recur. And recur. And recur…Until it shines”.

At the end of class, I asked my teacher where I could find the story, and she simply handed me a copy of The Martian Chronicles. I started reading as soon as I got home, and finished the entire collection that same evening. I could speak at length about every story in the book, but let me simply say this: in addition to adding to my newly kindled desire for more science fiction, every story pulsed with deeper meaning. Through stories of technology, telepathy, exploration, and so on Bradbury prompted his readers to think deeply about jealousy, loneliness, relationships, bigotry, fear, perception, and so many other essential elements of the human condition.

I was enthralled. I was confused. I was disturbed, and shattered, and exhilarated, and desperate not only to read more but to understand, because for the first time in my reading experience I also truly grasped that there were messages and ideas here that were still out of my reach…and I wanted them.

The following Monday, my teacher was ready with a copy of The Martian Chronicles and a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, because she had guessed (correctly) that I might want to understand the context of “Usher II”. By Wednesday, I was in the library checking out every Bradbury book they had. They would take me weeks to read, and years to fully understand, but I was ready for the challenge. Within a month, I was pestering librarians to point me to more science fiction, and then to other books, in any genre, that meant something.

For me, that search for meaning and resonance continues to this day, and so The Martian Chronicles is a book that I believe we simply cannot afford to lose.

 

ULS logo 1


An Invitation To Join The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society

Standard

ULS Logo 3

I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S.,the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. You do not actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

ULS logo 1