September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week dinner party

It's here! I look forward to it all year: Banned Books Week, the occasion for anti-conformists everywhere to revel publicly in the fact that the censors never win out in the end. To get people thinking about whether other people should be able to proclaim themselves the guardians of everyone's values. And of course to have a good laugh: Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut's novel about the fire-bombing of Dresden (talk about books that make you think, I can still remember the feeling I had when I was reading it of being asked to consider something I'd never considered before), was banned from a school in the US for containing "shocking material"? What, you mean war?

Or what about the the guy who, commenting on a NY Times blog post about the Brooklyn Public Library locking away (literally) Tintin in the Congo, said that they did right, Tintin is a racist and so is his "viscous little white dog"! That's sic, if you were wondering.

I also got a good laugh from the Harry Ransom Center, the famous home for rare books (and films etc) and literary archives at the University of Texas, which invites the public to come commemorate Banned Books Week at a dinner inspired by their exhibition "Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored". Here's what their website says:

"The menu exemplifies the opulence of the 1920s at a time when the government waged war on "objectionable" literature, and larger-than-life personalities battled publicly over obscenity, "clean books," and freedom of expression. The menu includes salmon croquettes, Waldorf salad, roast duck with broiled potatoes, carrots, and peas, and pineapple upside-down cake."

Salmon croquettes? Pineapple upside-down cake? What is this? It sounds like Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald having dinner at the Plaza in New York and I don't think they passed the time arguing about clean books! More about how to get a drink with Prohibition on! The place where all the books were being banned in the twenties was Boston, due to the frenetic activity of a certain "Watch and Ward" committee in that city (which, in a not-unexpected similar vein, called itself "The Hub of the Universe"); thus the phrase, "Banned in Boston". Publishers used to try to get their books banned in Boston, because sales immediately shot up everywhere else. I think the menu should have featured Boston Baked Beans and brown bread.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about a Banned Books dinner menu which would honour famous banned books. Here's where I've gotten so far:

Henry Miller crudités

Hors d'oeuvres à la mode de Gargantua
- several dozen hams
- smoked beef tongues,
- caviar
- fried tripe
- a shovelful of mustard

Steak Tartare au White Fang

Muttonchop au Mellors (aka Lady Chatterley's lover)

Ivan Denisovich bread (10.5 oz)

What's missing of course is Ulysses, next to Lady Chatterley's Lover the most famous banned book of the twenties. But how can you turn a masterwork of a description like this into a menu (as AA Gill said at the Writers and Readers Festival, "Menus always read horribly because they are written by chefs, and chefs all leave school at 15")?

“Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 04:00


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