Read any smut lately? Before you bark an indignant denial, cast your eyes over these descriptions of onece-filthy books that today would earn William Bennett's seal of approval. Yesterday's obscenity, evidently, is today's cultural literacy. That said, read any smut lately?


1. This epic, stream-of-consciousness novel chronicling a day in the life of three Dubliners was barred from the United States as obscene for 15 years, and was seized by U.S. postal authorities in 1918 and 1930. The ban was lifted in 1933.

2. Copies of this satire by a major French enlightenment thinker were confiscated by U.S. Customs 70 years ago. The novelette – originally written to lampoon the optimist philosophy of Leibniz – was later admitted into the country in a different edition. As recently as 1944, the Post Office demanded the title be omitted from a mailed book catalogue. Composer Leonard Bernstein turned the objectionable tale into a Broadway musical in 1956.

3. In 1881, this famous book of verse – by an American poet “no more modest than immodest” – was withdrawn in Boston, after that city’s district attorney threatened the publisher with criminal prosecution for printing explicit language.

4. This autobiographical work by a Swiss-French philosopher was banned by U.S. Customs in 1929 as injurious to public morality. The author – who wrote that “self-love makes more libertines than love” – offended state authorities in various ages and regions. In the 18th century, some of his writings were cited on the Vatican’s Index of Prohibited Books; in 1935, his philosophical books were banned in the Soviet Union.

5. Now standard fare in any 20th-century British lit course, this post-World War I novel about love in a gamekeeper’s cottage was the target of numerous obscenity trials in America and Britain up to the 1960s.

6. “Books are feeders for brothels” was the slogan of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, the group founded by anti-smut crusader Anthony Comstock, whose name is immortalized by the Comstock Law of 1873. Many classics – deemed “lewd, indecent, filthy or obscene” – were banned from U.S. mail for decades under this law. Can you identify the following six literary offenders?

a. This salacious ancient Greek comedy is an early instance of feminist anti-war activism.

b. These quaint verse tales spiced up a pilgrimage to an English cathedral city.

c. The venerable “Masterpiece Theater” series recently aired a film version of this lusty 18th-century British novel about an easily seduced heroine.

d. Ten young aristocrats cooped up outside plague-ridden Florence raise some hell Renaissance style in this collection of short stories.

e. A hundred years after the Comstock Law was passed, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film interpretation of these exotic Middle Eastern fables made movie censors blush.

f. A satiric romp of gross proportions, this explosion of erudition, wit, puns and pranks was the chef d’oeuvre of a French monk who moonlighted as a physician.




Contest Rules
1.We are looking for the author and the title of each banned book described in the 11 clues. In one instance, the author is anonymous.

2. Send your answers by no later than September 15 to:

The Last Word c/o USC Trojan Family Magazine University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2538

Submissions by fax (213-821-1100) and e-mail are also welcome. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

3. We will award up to five $30 gift certificates from Borders Books and Music to those degenerates who correctly identify each pernicious classic. If more than five correct entries are received, winners will be drawn by lot.

Visit your neighborhood Borders Books and Music store for over 200,000 book, music and video titles in stock, plus special orders on most merchandise. Serving you throughout Southern California and across the nation.

Last Word Solutions - Summer 1999

Illustration by Matthew Martin

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