Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’
February 19, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Georgia’s obscene novels.
Sixty-one years ago today, on February 19, 1953, the State of Georgia approved the formation of the first-ever literature censorship board in the United States. It went by the misleading name of the Georgia Literature Commission, and its humble charge was to stamp out obscenity in all of the myriad and insidious forms it took in our nation’s periodicals and publications. The Washington Post has an excellent gloss on the commission, which persevered for some twenty years, despite having been mired in controversy from its inception. James P. Wesberry, the committee’s chairman—and not coincidentally a Baptist preacher—found himself ridiculed by the national press when, soon after the committee’s formation, he said, “I don’t discriminate between nude women, whether they are art or not. It’s all lustful to me.”
Thus, with God and a pure, unyielding ignorance on his side, Wesberry developed an eight-question checklist with which to gauge literature for obscenity:
1. What is the general and dominant theme?
2. What degree of sincerity of purpose is evident?
3. What is the literary or scientific worth?
4. What channels of distribution are employed?
5. What are contemporary attitudes of reasonable men toward such matters?
6. What types of readers may reasonably be expected to peruse the publication?
7. Is there evidence of pornographic intent?
8. What impression will be created in the mind of the reader, upon reading the work as a whole?
(One imagines that question seven did most of the heavy lifting—the committee probably skipped ahead to that one, much as a wayward youth would skip ahead to the prurient bits in a girlie mag.)
Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre was the first book to be suggested for censorship, in 1957; The Catcher in the Rye and The Naked and the Dead were also deemed obscene. For the most part, though, the commission went after dime-store sleaze like Alan Marshall’s Sin Whisper—when they banned that title, the battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the decision. By 1971, the whole commission seemed kind of silly. When Jimmy Carter, he who had lusted after women in his heart, was governor, he slashed the commission’s funding, and by 1973 it was no more. Still, when you see the lurid covers of these novels, you’ll understand why they were believed to corrupt and deprave. Here are some of the books the committee found too debauched for the public consumption: Read More »
June 28, 2012 | by Rachael Maddux
Howard Finster was fixing a bicycle in his Summerville, Georgia, workshop one day when a smudge of paint on his index finger took the shape of a face, a face that spoke to him and told him, “Paint sacred art.” Finster, then in his sixties, had been many things in his life: a teenage tent-revival preacher, a pastor, a mill worker. He had never been an artist, but he had also never been a man to shirk the word of God.
That was in 1976. The Lord told him to make five thousand works, a quota he reached just before Christmas 1985. By the time he died in 2001, his catalogue had swelled to more than forty-six thousand pieces. He devised an intricate numbering system and timestamped many of his works upon completion; he often painted through the night, sleeping only intermittently. Sometimes he signed his paintings BY HOWARD FINSTER, OF GOD. MAN OF VISIONS.
December 22, 2011 | by Rachael Maddux
In the world of candy stores, and this candy store in particular, Christmas is a perpetual condition that just happens to spike at the end of the year. A red-and-green decorating scheme carried throughout the shop—I could not escape it, even when I retreated, as I sometimes did, to the store’s one bathroom, also tinged with red and green, just to shut out the world for a minute or two. On the sales floor, the shelves were heavy with saltwater taffy and boxes of truffles and delightfully analog toys—balsa gliders, pick-up sticks, chunky wooden puzzles. The general effect was that of being buried inside the holiday stocking of a child who’d been very, very good that year—along with the child himself, and a hoard of his less well-mannered friends and their overstressed, oblivious parents.
I took the gig shortly after finding myself laid off from the job I’d had for the last four years as an editor at a music magazine. I felt adrift and thought tending to a candy store, such a bastion of simple pleasures, might anchor me more firmly to the world, and also I thought that money might be a thing I’d might want to have again. But in my vague desperation I had forgotten about humans’ terrific knack for rendering even the most ostensibly pleasant pursuits completely soul crushing, and how that tendency increases as the winter days darken.
September 28, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
A cultural news roundup.
June 21, 2011 | by Rachael Maddux
Margaret Mitchell was on her way to see a movie when she was struck by an off-duty cabbie driving too fast down Peachtree Street one night in Atlanta in 1949. Her death five days later cemented certain facts of her life, most notably that her first novel would also be her last. But she had made the most of her debut: in its nearly 1,500 pages, Gone with the Wind captured the romance and demise of America’s Old South like none other before or since, sold one million copies within six months of its publication, secured a Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1937, and inspired one of the most beloved motion pictures of all time.
Little was said about Mitchell’s death one recent evening in Atlanta, when several dozen of her fans—Windies, as they like to be called—gathered for a tour and graveside toast at the historic Oakland Cemetery, where Mitchell is buried and where her plot is among the most visited. The soiree was one of many held in and around the city this month in honor of Gone with the Wind’s seventy-fifth anniversary. The crowd was almost entirely female; Gone with the Wind handbags abounded, and at least one wristwatch bore the iconic image of Rhett and Scarlett’s smoldering onscreen embrace. Though most wore street clothes, some ladies had arrived in 1860s-ish period dress, their dedication eclipsing both the melting late-afternoon heat and the outfits’ flagrant anachronisms—clip-on chignons, hemlines revealing reputation-shattering amounts of ankle, synthetic fabrics not invented in Mitchell’s lifetime.
Until recently, I was only vaguely acquainted with Scarlett O’Hara. I was raised in Tennessee by multigenerational Southerners and grew up visiting Civil War battlefields on field trips and family vacations. I went to college in Atlanta—Mitchell’s hometown and the setting for most of her opus—and have lived here ever since. But my knowledge of Gone with the Wind was only sufficient enough to know that Rhett Butler’s most famous line from the movie perfectly summed up my sentiments regarding the whole franchise: frankly, my dear, I didn’t give a damn.
December 24, 2010 | by Rachael Maddux
My family’s annual Christmas Eve tradition of ogling holiday lights was cemented as soon as my younger sister and I were big enough to peep out of the windows of our family’s Dodge Caravan. Sucking down hot chocolate and munching sugar cookies in the backseat as our parents navigated every last suburban enclave of Chattanooga, Tennessee, we oohed and aahed indiscriminately at any structure draped with flickering bulbs on strings.
We’re pickier now. We avoid the subdivisions with obvious neighborhood association–enforced strictures of white lights, red ribbons, and evergreen boughs. We like gawking at failure: poorly draped, overly bright LED strands, inflatable Santas gone flaccid, blown-over flocks of animated wooden reindeer. But what we crave most is the audacious triumph of a place bold and bright and strange enough to be called a Christmas House.
This is an unofficial title, of course, and there were certainly other worthy contenders around Chattanooga, but for my family’s gas mileage, the best bet was Ron and Judy McGill’s. For years running, we’d cap off our Christmas Eve tour of lights with a pilgrimage across town, turning down the inconspicuous side street and joining the line of cars slowly snaking down to the end of the block. The house was inconspicuous most of the year, but shortly after Thanksgiving it would become obscured by a front and side yard densely packed with what functioned as a discombobulated catalogue of every kind of Christmas decoration made available for purchase over the past thirty years. If Christmas Homes have one thing in common, it is probably their disdain for the whole “one true God” concept as it relates to their yuletide décor. Multiple nativity scenes abounded. Electric trains zipped around inflatable Homer Simpsons and Grinches dressed in Santa suits. Gingerbread men with shit-eating grins plastered the rails of a gazebo, from under which life-size statues of Santa and Mrs. Claus peered out over the madness, flanked by two giant, pensive snowmen. Miniature blow-mold Santas, impaled Vladlike on fence posts, stood sentinel between the yard and the endless procession of passersby. Even over the grumble of idling car engines and the McGill’s looping soundtrack of Christmas with the Chipmunks we could hear the whirring, the clattering, the humming of all the tiny mechanized parts and pumps and thousands of electric bulbs burning away. They emitted a palpable heat.
Ron and Judy McGill, whose proprietorship was announced on a lit-up wooden sign staked into the ditch out front, watched the reverse-parade from lawn chairs under their carport, the only bare spot on the lot. Sometimes one of them would step out to the street and hand out peppermints and humbly accept the few bucks we’d pass back to offset the power bill incurred for our pleasure. But that’s as close as we ever got to them.