Tuesday, February 03, 2004

what you calling obscene?

stumbled across this case at work. it's about some booksellers who were being charged with obscenity for selling the following books: god's little acre by erskine caldwell, studs logan trilogy and a world i never made by james t. farrell, sanctuary and wild palms by william faulkner, end as a man by calder wallingham and never love a stranger by harold robbins.

judge curtis bok (who later became a member of the pennsylvania supreme court) read the books and wrote a summary for each. then he declared them not obscene. this passage struck me, considering that the case was penned sometime in 1948 and promulgated in 1949.

"it will be asked whether one would care to have one's young daughter read these books. i suppose that by the time she is old enough to wish to read them she will have learned the biologic facts of life and the words that go with them. there is something seriously wrong at home if those facts have not been met and faced and sorted by then; it is not children so much as parents that should receive our concern about this. i should prefer that my own three daughters meet the facts of life and the literature of the world in my library than behind a neighbor's barn, for i can face the adversary there directly. if the young ladies are appalled by what they read, they can close the book at the bottom of page one; if they read further they will learn what is in the world and it its people, and no parents who have been discerning with their children need fear the outcome. nor can they hold it back, for life is a series of little battles and minor issues, and the burden of choice is on us all, every day, young and old. our daughters must live in the world and decide what sort of women they are to be, and we should be willing to prefer their deliberate and informed choice of decency rather than an innocence that continues to spring from ignorance. if that choice be made in the open sunlight, it is more apt than when made in shadow to fall on the side of honorable behavior." (emphasis mine)

this decision is over 50 years old. i haven't found the full text online but i have read it. it's pretty interesting for a case decision. will look for it and try to link it. here's the citation for those interested.

commonwealth v. gordon (1949) 66 pa. d & c 101.

i think we should be so lucky if most fathers think like this. my dad never stopped us from reading. well maybe if we read during meals. and i am extremely thankful that they stocked our shelves with classics. my mom had a policy. never scrimp on two things. and two things only. -food and books.

i have to look these books up. :)

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