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Banned books & breaking out of bookshops: The week in ideas

  • By Lauren Mooney
  • 24th October 2014
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In this week's round-up of the big ideas in literacy, literature and free expression, Lauren Mooney talks banned books and the Waterstones One.

Social media can be a beautiful thing. It’s capable of keeping us in touch with loved ones far and wide, making us feel like we have company even when we’re alone. Even when we’re super alone. Even when we’re, say, trapped in a bookshop for hours without any human company.

Poor old David Willis from Dallas, Texas, inadvertently sparked a Twitter frenzy last week by live-tweeting his temporary incarceration in the Trafalgar Square branch of Waterstones. This is exactly the kind of minor adventure the internet likes, and cries of “free the Waterstones One” sprang (tweeted?) up across the land.

And if you were one of the people GRIPPED by this saga who thought to yourself, ‘Actually, I wouldn’t mind being stuck in a bookshop for a bit,’ then it’s your lucky day! So many people tweeted something to that effect that Waterstones have decided to give 10 lucky competition winners the ultimate bookish sleepover. The power of the internet, I guess.

This week also saw the 54th anniversary of the beginning of the Chatterley trial, when Penguin were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It’s tame enough by modern standards that it’s hard to see why Chatterley caused such uproar (though I guess it has got f-bombs and c-bombs and, you know…that bit where they plait flowers in each other’s pubes?), but the trial has been seen as the beginning of the permissive society and was kind of a watershed moment for free expression in literature. Why not celebrate by reading some other banned books?

And finally, Chambers Dictionary’s word of the year has been named – following 2013’s ‘selfie’, the word of the year for 2014 is apparently ‘overshare’, as in, “Your after-sex selfie is a bit of an overshare . #flowersinpubes” Use a word three times and it’s yours, guys. 

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