COMSTOCKERY IN AMERICA by Robert W. Haney

COMSTOCKERY IN AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A controlled, hardhitting, and, except to those whose special interests and beliefs will be affronted, convincing assault on censorship- of what we read or see or say- since liberty is more to be protected than public morals and restraints are basically destructive to creativity and growth. This is the larger issue the author makes here and it is kept firmly in view; but in getting down to the case by case examination of where censorship (it has a legal basis) or control (non-legal) prevail, certain institutions and individuals are openly attacked. This book is to some extent a rebuttal of Father Gardiner's Catholic Viewpoint on Censorship. From earlier historical precedents, to Comstock, that joyless protector of the public, Mr. Haney goes on to discuss famous cases (Ulysses, etc.) and shows the difficulty of establishing real criteria- ""obscenity is all things to all men"". The comics, Wertham to the contrary, have had no really deleterious effect on the young he feels, nor have cheap magazines; what they have largely stimulated is the unhealthy type of vigilance as practised by the National Legion of Decency- or in the case of the movies, the Motion Picture Code, while in the television industry, sponsor censorship is another regrettable type of repression. At the close, Haney discusses the psychology of the Comstock who suppresses ""in order to stabilize his own tremulous values and conscience"" and his power to influence public opinion. A controversial book- surely and admittedly- but there will be many to welcome it as an important record of what has been achieved in the defense of civil liberties and as a protest against the prudery often called prudence.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1960
Publisher: Beacon