Sunday, September 27, 2009

Potentially hazardous

Twice a week we pack the items we've sold and take them to the post office, where they know us well by now, and know that most of our packages contain books. Still, they are required to ask the standard question about our shipping : "Are any of these liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?" After we made the joke about how "Haha! Books are always hazardous! Ideas are dangerous!" a few times, it got old, but the truth remains. They are.

In 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his novel, The Satanic Verses. It was mainstream news, not "mere" book news, and got a lot of attention, with the local paper interviewing all in the book business to see if we were brave enough to defy any violent militants who hopped into town.

20 years later Rushdie is alive and so are all the booksellers and librarians 8~) who were brave enough to declare they would stock it anyway. It was truly scary, at least in major cities, at the time. Nobody knew what could happen. I kept this issue of the Barnes and Noble catalog, explaining their commitment to intellectual freedom, and I still admire their courage.

During Banned Books Week, here's to book peddlers everywhere who keep the light burning.


southernyankee said...

Booksellers and librarians, where would freedom be without them? Lost, or at least seriously smothered by narrow thinking.

Dann said...

Sadly, that no longer includes Yale.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

SY - Yep, i agree! 8~)

Dann - Sadly, yeah, they have handled that very badly.