Oh, I can't help but smile as I write. What a fun question and so perfect for Banned Book Week. I absolutely read all kinds of literature including some very naughty things. The discussion reminded me of the chief librarian at the local public library of my girlhood. She rescued me from all the "nice" books for good little girls. You know the ones.... Black Beauty, Little Women, The Wizard of Oz, Nancy Drew. I did enjoy most of these works, but either ran out of things to read or outgrew them. Most of the older members of my family read two things on a regular basis, the Bible and the Dallas Morning News. Of course novel reading had always been held in suspicion by my good puritan ancestors.
The movie, Love Story, was tremendously popular sometime in my teen years. (I know yuck, but the overblown angst was powerful stuff back then.) I bought the Erich Segal novel upon which the movie was based, only to have my mother immediately confiscate it. She thought there might be sexual content. The incident was huge with anger and frustration in my head. This was a devaluation of my own choices for my own thoughts and mind. I was then and remain certain that no other person should ever control my reading.
At the first opportunity, I went to the public library and read the damn book. This particular library has a few secluded window seats in quite places. My favorite was at the far end of a long row of stacks in non-fiction. Sandy, my librarian friend, stopped by to say hello that day, and I poured out all the frustration, determination, and furry. I told someone what I knew it meant to be me. My good librarian was calm and reassuring. After all, wasn't I making my own choice now? Wasn't this the very reason for having libraries and librarians? She assured me that my thoughts were mine and mine alone. The noble and honorable institutions which kept and organized our thoughts and ideas and the professionals who stood guard were there for me now and always. I could aspire someday, if I wished, to join Sandy and others in protecting these important rights myself.
Then Sandy casually mentioned having some other, rather fine literary works that might interest me. Specifically, Mr. Lawrence had written a novel which was both a great work of literature and thoroughly scandalous. The earlier, rebellious and angry me still wasted an hour or two on the unimpressive "love means never having to say you're sorry" drivel. Then, thanks to Sandy, I took home the lovely Lady Chatterley. My mother had no questions about books from the library, and I was free to openly read a book famous for its most definite sexual content.
Even without the naughty bits, this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of book for me. I began to understand something about the real misery of the class system in England. I suppose we have families in the U.S. with pretensions to some form of pseudo-aristocracy. But, not much of that was around in Fort Worth. Also, I began to realize the enormous tragedy that was the "Great War." My brief education on the subject had been something like:
... Once upon a time a duke from a country I never heard of was shot. The Europeans all went crazy. Then American army in funny helmets came and fixed every thing. They were called Dough Boys and I don't know why. The End....
Why hadn't I known about all this pain and suffering? Why didn't I know of the millions of dead young men? Slowly I began to grasp something of the world the British had lost because of that war. Lawrence supplied an eloquent voice for this loss and brought me some understanding of their forever altered world. While the theme was new to me at the time, I would soon come to recognize it in dozens of other works in British literature. An entire culture died and passed through a point of no return. Decades later they still grieved its loss somewhere. While my mother worried about sullying my virginal thoughts, a world disappeared without my knowledge.
I've read all kinds of shocking and scandalous things over the years. Librarians aren't generally afraid of the printed word. But, I would have to say that very few novels have ever delighted, surprised, or enlightened me quite as much as Lady Chatterley's Lover.