Category Archives: Books

Lying to children about the past

I reviewed A Birthday Cake for George Washington, the controversial children’s picture book about slavery, for the Seattle Review of Books— read it here: http://seattlereviewofbooks.com/reviews/the-idea-of-freedom-might-be-too-great-a-temptation-for-them-to-resist/

In my review I tell the real story of Hercules, George Washington’s slave-cook, a story far different from the happy fictional one in the book, which was promoted as “based on real events.” SPOILER ALERT: On Washington’s 65th birthday, Hercules didn’t bake a cake– he escaped.

The book was withdrawn by the publisher over the MLK holiday weekend, but the issues it raises are larger than this particular book. We should tell the complicated truths about America’s founders and founding and stop lying to our children about the past.

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story”

Apologies for my long blog silence, but it has been a crazy, busy year.

I am still on Twitter daily, and I often tweet links to information and reference sources as well as articles on a wide range of subjects, so follow me @bylisagold if you are interested.

I did write two posts last month for the Bauman Rare Books blog, on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and on Rare Books as Gifts. You’ll find links to all of my BRB blog posts in the sidebar to the right.

I do have some exciting news about my husband, Matt Ruff. His new book will be published in February 2016– Lovecraft Country, a historical novel that explores the real-life terrors of Jim Crow racism through the prism of Lovecraftian horror and fantasy. Matt’s website has a description of the novel, blurbs from Christopher Moore, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson, and John Crowley, and advance reviews. He also posted a list of his readings/signings/appearances for the book, with more to come as they are scheduled.

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And finally, as you likely guessed from the title of this post, I have fallen hard for Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton musical. I haven’t seen the show (*sob*), but I’m completely obsessed with the extraordinary Broadway cast album. Excuse me while I go listen to it again…

hamilton

My new Books the Founders Read post on Blackstone

“In America the law is king.”
–Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

My new Books the Founders Read post on the Bauman Rare Books blog is about William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, the most important and widely-read law book in 18th-century America.

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John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson, John Jay, John Marshall, and other Founders read the work and cited it frequently in their writings.

Blackstone-first-American

You can read my Blackstone post here. If you’re interested in reading my other blog posts for Bauman Rare Books, there are links in the sidebar to the right.

“In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study… I have been told by an eminent bookseller that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England… This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”
–Edmund Burke’s 1775 speech on conciliation with the American colonies

Books the Founders Read, my new series for the Bauman Rare Books blog

I’ve started a new series, Books the Founders Read, on the Bauman Rare Books blog. I’ll be highlighting books that the Founding Fathers read, owned, wrote about, and were influenced by. My first post is about Algernon Sidney’s 1698 Discourses Concerning Government, a work that was particularly significant to Thomas Jefferson, who cited it as an important influence on the Declaration of Independence and praised it in his letters.

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Sidney was executed for treason in 1683, accused of involvement in the Rye House Plot against Charles II. Two witnesses were needed to convict someone of treason, but there was only a single witness, so the prosecution used Sidney’s unpublished manuscript of Discourses as the second witness, and the judge famously ruled “scribere est agere”—to write is to act.

You can read the entire post here.

My new posts on the Bauman Rare Books blog

I haven’t been blogging here because I’ve been busy writing holiday season posts for the Bauman Rare Books blog:

Giving and Collecting Rare Books on Economics, featuring books by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman, as well as books on finance and the stock market.

Wealth of Nations

Giving and Collecting Rare Books by 20th-Century Leaders, featuring books and autographs by civil and human rights leaders (Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt), World War II leaders (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower), and modern leaders (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama).

King Stride

Giving and Collecting Rare Children’s Books–19th Century, featuring books by Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Carlo Collodi, and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Huck new

Giving and Collecting Rare Children’s Books–20th Century,
featuring books by L. Frank Baum, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, A.A. Milne, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Crockett Johnson, Dr. Seuss, Kay Thompson, Michael Bond, Roald Dahl, and Maurice Sendak.

charlotte's web

My Banned Books Week post for the Bauman Rare Books blog

We Read Banned Books is my latest post for the Bauman Rare Books blog, featuring the stories of six important books: Joyce’s Ulysses, Galileo’s Dialogo, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Nabokov’s Lolita.

Read it here: http://www.baumanrarebooks.com/blog/read-banned-books/

Ulysses

 

 

 

 

 

Edward de Grazia, the lawyer who fought book censorship & wrote Girls Lean Back Everywhere

In a 2008 post about Banned Books Week, I recommended an excellent 1992 book about literary censorship and obscenity prosecutions in the United States, Edward de Grazia’s Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius. He was a lawyer who fought the censorship of books in a number of prominent cases in the 1960s.

Girls Lean Back Everywhere

This morning I learned that Edward de Grazia has died at the age of 86. Here’s his obituary from the New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt from my original post about his book:

The title is taken from a quote by Jane Heap, who (with Margaret Anderson) was prosecuted in 1920 for publishing episodes from James Joyce’s Ulysses in their magazine, The Little Review:

Mr. Joyce was not teaching early Egyptian perversions nor inventing new ones. Girls lean back everywhere, showing lace and silk stockings; wear low-cut sleeveless blouses, breathless bathing suits; men think thoughts and have emotions about these things everywhere–seldom as delicately and imaginatively as Mr. Bloom–and no one is corrupted.

This work describes in detail the publishing histories and obscenity trials of the most controversial books of the 20th century, including Joyce’s Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, as well as later trials involving the monologues of Lenny Bruce, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.

What makes this work particularly entertaining are the extensive quotes from the authors and publishers involved. As de Grazia notes in his introduction:

I wanted to find out, and describe, how the persons who were most immediately affected by literary censorship–authors and publishers–responded to and felt about it, and to present their reactions as much as possible in words of their own. I also wanted to say what I could about the nature of the legal and constitutional process that has framed the struggle against censorship in our country….