Wanting and Fearing books...

During my happy reading childhood, it became clear to me that I was lucky not to have been born 100 years earlier. I remember my horror at how thrilled Laura was to get her one book as a gift in Little Town on the Prairie--the thrill of it! and I have countless, unspecific, memories of children in books not being allowed to read fiction because of Satan, concomitant descent in to moral turpitude, etc.

Is this later phenomena is an American thing, a holdover from the Puritan mindset? Do we still, as a country, carry with us a vague fear that fiction (Harry Potter aside) will corrupt our youth?
I am thinking about this because of today's post at the Guardian Book Blog, that font of useful stuff for spin-off blog posts, entitled: "Warning: books may damage your health." (tongue in cheek) seems to suggest that a different mindset holds sway across the pond.

How can one not read all of a post that includes such thought provoking utterances:

"After last week's Children's Society report declared that Britain's youth were devolving into feral illiterates, the government insisted that what they need is a damn good reading." The author goes on to propose that "books – lumped together into a single medium, individual content unspecified – have come to be seen as the natural catalyst for wholesomeness."



  1. I just requested Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary, about a girl's campaign to get a local library in her town at the turn of last century. (That doesn't roll off the tongue as readily as "turn of the century," but I certainly don't mean 2000/01.) It boggles the mind that children wouldn't have access to books, never mind being forbidden to read them.


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