Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Books Week 2016: the naughty bits of "Slaughterhouse Five"

It's ALA's Banned Books Week, 2016. The outrage of Huckleberry Finn is still a thrill, over 120 years since its publication. Congratulations to Mr. Twain, who continues to make the national conscience uncomfortable more than a hundred years after his death.

Here are some of the naughty bits of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, a book often banned and often cited as objectionable, as enumerated in the dissenting opinion of Justice Powell in the 1973 Supreme Court decision. For more First Amendment decisions and lots of fun reading, visit the First Amendment Center.


"The excerpts which led the Board to look into the educational suitability of the books in question are set out (with minor corrections after comparison with the text of the books themselves) below. The pagination and the underlinings are retained from the original report used by the board. In newer editions of some of the books, the quotes appear at different pages. 



32  'You stake a guy out on an anthill in the desert -- see? He's facing upward, and you put honey all over his balls and pecker, and you cut off his eyelids so he has to stare at the sun till he dies.'

34  'He had a prophylactic kit containing two tough condoms 'For the prevention of disease only!' . . . He had a dirty picture of a woman attempting sexual intercourse with a shetland pony.'

94 & 95  'But the Gospels actually taught this: Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected . . . The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ who didn't look like much, was actually the son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought . . . 

Oh boy -- they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch this time! And that thought had a brother: There are right people to lynch. 

People not well connected . . . . The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really WAS a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections then he had . . . . So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn't possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought . . . since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was. And then just before the nobody died . . . . The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son . . . God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections.'

99  'They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals.'

122  'And he'll pull out a gun and shoot his pecker off. The stranger'll let him think a couple of seconds about who Paul Lazzaro is and what life's gonna be like without a pecker. Then he'll shoot him once in the guts and walk away. . . . He died on account of this silly cocksucker here. So I promised him I'd have this silly cocksucker shot after the war.'

173  'And the peckers of the young men would still be semierect, and their muscles would be bulging like cannonballs.'

175 ' They didn't have hard-ons . . . Everybody else did.'

177  'The magazine, which was published for lonesome men to jerk off to.'

178 ' and one critic said. . . . 'To describe blow-jobs artistically."

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