Flashback: The Harvard Crimson Reports “Tropic of Cancer” is banned in Massachusetts on Nov. 14, 1961!

It’s funny now to think that “Cancer” was banned, but back then, of course, it was no joke.

tropicofcancerWe’d also like to think that Massachusetts would be a relatively liberal place back in the day, especially compared to the Deep South, right?

Au contraire mon frere!!

Massachusetts, after all, was the cradle of Puritanism; one of their best innovations was the witch hunt, as evidenced in another Miller’s (trippy!) “The Crucible.”

And so we dug up a nifty little nugget on the internet — the actual article from the Harvard Crimson, dated November 14, 1961, explaining how the state’s Superior Court banned “Cancer.”

We must say, in retrospect, we give Judge Goldberg points for doing his homework — eerily so, in fact. Here’s a quote from the article:

“‘Of the 313 pages of the book, there are sex episodes on 35 pages, some of which are described on two or more pages, and all of which are described “with precise detail and four-letter words,” he said. ‘The author’s descriptive powers one truly impressive, and he rises to great literary heights when he describes Paris. And suddenly he descends into the filthy gutter.'”

[Ed: as opposed to the “sparklingly clean gutter?”]

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Henry Miller and Grove Press, Mr. Ephraim London, had tried to show that the book was not obscene by bringing in literary critics, such as Mark Schorer, Harry Moore, and Harry T. Levin, who had praised Tropic of Cancer’s literary merit.

The verdict?

“I have carefully and painstakingly read the book from cover to cover,” Judge Goldberg concluded. “Applying the law applicable to the book. I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that the book is obscene, indecent, and impure.”


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