Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Week September 25−October 2, 2010: A Call to Action

Mention book banning and many think of the usual suspects: totalitarian regimes burning George Orwell’s1984 in distant lands long ago.  Or Old School censorship of rebels like J. D. Salinger or D. H. Lawrence.  Most remember the ruckus in the '50s and '60s over Catcher in the Rye and the British ban until 1960 on printing Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  At a time when real-life-married couple, Luci and Desi, weren’t allowed to sleep onscreen in the same bed, Holden’s expulsion from classrooms and the earthy lover’s getting the boot from printing houses was no wonder.

But what some don’t realize is that still filing out of library and classroom doors behind the obvious renegades are Harry Potter, James and his giant peach, Hamlet, King Lear, Anne Frank, Jay Gatsby, and Atticus Finch.  Death of a Salesman taken down, and Canterbury Tales sent on a permanent pilgrimage to the trash heap.  Grapes of Wrath run out of town andThe House on Mango Street evicted.

Charlotte’s WebThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Whether condemned like Voltaire’s Candide for his mantra that we live in the “Best of all Possible Worlds,” or Hardy’s Tess of the d'Urbevilles for her fatalistic cry that “All is Vanity,” hundreds of books are challenged and banned in schools and libraries in the US annually.  In 2009 the American Library Association reports 460, though they estimate that 70-80% are never reported. 

Classic Coup celebrates rich reads that move our heads and hearts.  We’re about critical thinking and compassionate living. We challenge readers to turn the tide, putting down the fluff fiction and picking up books of substance.  Classics are forever green. Their authors--social critics, life coaches, visionaries--wrestle alongside us with life's most crucial issues.  They incite free thinking which survives book bans and burnings.   Classic Coup rallies rebels who embrace the freedom to read great books, many which are threatened by censorship, such as the ones here.

Ultimately, Ray Bradbury was right: "You don't have to burn a book to destroy a culture.  Just get people to stop reading them." Anyone up for exercising freedom to read, to think, to feel? Observe Banned Books Week year-round.  And rather than torching books like the firemen of Fahrenheit 451, throw a wet blanket on Spark Notes.  Read the Real Deal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Party People...Gatsby and La Dolce Vita

In The Great Gatsby, a poor boy cashes in on the American Dream to win back the rich girl he lost in his youth.  Encouraged by the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, Jay Gatsby gives epic parties, believing one night she'll attend and he'll redo history.  Of Gatsby's guests, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes:  "People were not invited--they went there.  Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all."

Designed to read as texts to the latest party, our Gatsby shirt celebrates a classic as relevant today as when published in 1925.  Fitzgerald depicts Gatsby chasing a dream.  Likewise, the author ran just as fast, globe-trotting from Long Island to Paris to keep up with the rich set. In The Crack-Up the iconic  writer tells his story, a life strung together by parties that left him feeling "drunk at 20, wrecked at 30, dead at 40."  Swept along by the fast crowd, he experienced  mental and marital illness, physical and financial ruin.

Fast- forward 35 years to a cinema classic, Frederico Fellini's La Dolce Vita.  The film centers on Marcello, a tabloid journalist  in search of meaning, this time in the cultural center of Rome.  Caught between the fast life of the wealthy and bored, Marcello is torn between materialistic hedonism and authentic artistic pursuit.  Though he longs to be a serious author he aimlessly wanders from one woman to another, one party to the next. The struggles of Fitzgerald and Marcello echo the plight of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.  But the resolutions differ.

Living the dream first means defining the dream.  Rich man...poor man.  Still the stuff of lit and life.  But rather than the angst found in the 20th century masterpiece The Great Gatsby,  buzz around Chris Lehmann's book,  Rich People Things, to be released in October, is more a postmodern response.   Material Girls (and Boys) depicted in the 21st century book trailer (below) are more laughable than lamentable.  Likewise, check out blog post #41 on "Stuff Rich People Love."  In the countdown by Chas Underwood III today's  "Extravagant Parties" may trump even those of East and West Egg.  No doubt Daisy isn't the only one with a voice "full of money."