Thursday, April 28, 2005

U.S. to Ban Books; Venezuela Gives Free Books

Literature in the news with striking contrasts:
a legislator in Alabama has proposed a law to ban gay authors from libraries, while the popular socialist president of Venezuela gave away a million free copies of Don Quixote.

Authors who would be banned in the state of Alabama include Tennessee Williams, Walt Whitman, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Alice Walker, and many others. Originally the legislator wanted to ban a bit of Shakespeare too, seeing as how he had some sort of "homosexual agenda." But after criticism from his colleagues, the law would exempt "classics". Nevertheless, he still has no definition of what constitutes a classic. Is Tennessee Williams a "classic" author, or just a melodramatic gay hack?

CBS News | Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors | April 27, 2005

President Hugo Chavez, miraculously still leading Venezuela despite a CIA sponsored coup against him in which he was kidnapped for a few days, has marked the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote by Cervantes by giving away 1,000,000 (that's one million) free copies.
Noting that the famous Man from La Mancha dared to dream of a better world and to act out that dream, Hugo Chavez said, "To some degree, we are followers of Quixote." You will remember that Don Quixote too was treated with derision very much the way Chavez is being treated by the capitalists today. Both are called madmen. Yet at the end of the quest, ironically it was the sublime chivalry of Quixote's dreaming that caused those around him to give him belated respect and to regret that they had been so careless in rejecting him.

So, two governments enact two ways to relate to literature. Alabama seeks to ban books out of bigotry and fear, while Venezuela seeks to give free books to the poor out of idealism and empathy. The macro-irony of course is that the mainstream opinion is that Chavez is the crazy one, while Alabama is reasonable. To see more clearly that this world is upside-down and inside-out should not be so difficult. Sooner or later we will see, but alas belatedly too and filled with regrets.


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