Saturday, 4 December 2010


Writer: Paul Blanshard
Title: The Right to Read
Subtitle: The Battle Against Censorship
Foreword: Paul Blanchard

Edition: Presumably first
Language: English
Place of Publication: Boston
Publisher: The Beacon Press
Date of publication: 1955
Format: 145x215mm

Number of pages: 339; bibliography, 315; notes, 319; index, 329
Binding: Hardcover in duotone dust jacket
Entry No.: 2009021

Date of Entry: 23rd March 2009

In this book Paul Blanshard, combining the roles of “a literary war correspondent and a very zealous moral philosopher,” reviews the whole field of the freedom and censorship of reading in the United States today. He asks two questions: How much literary freedom actually exists in the United States today? How much should exist?

Mr. Blanshard goes to the heart of the most important controversial issues of our time, examining the great moral problem-areas of American life in which the people's right to read is threatened by censorship laws or reactionary pressure groups. He covers the recent battles for freedom in America's public libraries, schools and newspapers from Los Angeles to Washington, and from Atlanta to Detroit. He discusses paperbacks, comic books, “girlie” magazines, tabloids, book-burning, pornography, textbooks, libel laws, fraudulent advertising, monopoly in the ownership of newspapers, Communist propaganda, the National Organization of Decent Literature and the American Legion.

Although Mr. Blanshard is a lawyer, this is not a legal treatise. However, it is packed with well-documented legal facts, the kind of facts which ordinary readers want to know about the laws and customs controlling our reading matter, especially in the twilight zones of obscenity, sedition, blasphemy, fraud and violence. It summarizes legal decisions in these matters in popular language, and discusses the social concepts that lie behind the laws. It asks those vital questions which concern the common man: How bad are the comic books, and should they be suppressed? Dare we put Communist books on our public library shelves? Who doctors our textbooks? Does anti-religious literature have a fair chance in America? Should the common man have the right to read the truth in wartime? Will the literature of internationalism destroy the loyalty of our school children? Where did our ideas of obscene literature come from?

This is not a blanket attack on censorship, but a reasoned analysis of the whole pattern of the control and the distribution of reading matter in our civilization. Through all the discussion runs an emphasis upon the need for preserving America as an open society in which there will be a reasonable balance between freedom and responsibility. Mr. Blanshard's deepest concern is with the right of the non-conformist minority in morals, politics, economics and religion to write and speak freely without penalty. “Censored ideas,” he says , “are ususally the most vital ideas of our life, and man's whole future may depend upon his right to examine them with free intelligence.”

Chapters include:
The Pattern of Control; Sex and Obscenity; The Puritan Vigilantes; Communism and Capitalism; Textbooks and the Schools; Patriotism and Treason;  Blasphemy, Faith and Race; Crime, Violence and the Comics;  Fraud, Libel and Secrecy; and the Ebb and Flow of Freedom

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