Counsel for Grove Press Defends Miller's Novel
Faced by strong accusations against his client last night, the legal counsel for Grove Press took off his coat, stood up before a large audience, and dramatically declared, "If the Tropic of Cancer offends people, they don't have to read it.
"The law is not designed to protect us from ourselves or to tell us what thoughts we ought to have," Charles I. Rembar '35 asserted in defense of Henry Miller's recently banned book at a Winthrop House Forum
His statements followed charges by Roger D. Fisher '43, professor of Law, Grove Press appears to be publishing books so that it can cash in on the banned-in-Boston line," and that Cancer "upsets the interests" of certain non-literary groups, such as children.
Submit that offensiveness is too a ground to impinge on Constitutional rights and ban the book," Rembar declared, adding that this was the only argument offered by Fisher.
Denying the charge that the book was sold to capitalize on the obscenity problem Barney Rosset, president of Grove, angrily added, "I have chosen to publish this book because it is a great international classic." (He added frankly, "Sure, we're also trying to sell as many and make as much money as possible.")
The panel of nine, however, did not agree with Rosset. Kenneth S. '45, associate professor of English, declared that "The book is designed only to titillate and taunt," claiming that "literacy critics are on dangerous ground defending it as great literature." Added "I didn't like the book.... Miller little literary future."
Novelist John C. Hawkes '47 also withheld praise: "My main disappointment is that the book is not obscene enough." Objected to Miller's "anti-homosexual made in the first part of the book," and "The author is not the sexual God of the earth--and if he were, he'd be unbearable."
Influence on Impressionism
In defense of the book Hawkes said, "Cancer is the kind of gutter we want of," and claimed that it has an important influence on the modern impressionistic novel.
Boston Bloomfield, professor of English that "It is not a great literary but it should have a chance to be heard. It might shock people, but it offend them."
Under the direction of moderator David John, teaching fellow in English, the panel then considered the psychologically influences of Cancer. Leon N. Shapiro '46, instructor in psychiatry, claimed that the book is "not at all sexually stimulating because its detailed descriptions of the sex act leave nothing to the imagination."
Shapiro, who noted that he has dealt with many cases of sexual perverseness, said that in his experience he has found that "pornography actually helps to control the actions of sexually disturbed people." He concluded, "Better pornography might drive cheaper brands from the market."
"Is this a religious work?" Littlejohn asked Robert W. Haney '56, minister at the First Unitarian Church of Boston, who was asked the same question in the recent Massachusetts court proceedings. Haney replied, "If by religious you mean it achieves respect for the divinity, then Cancer is not a religious book. If, however, you mean it expresses a man's ultimate commitments, then it is a religious book."
As the evening wore on, the panel limited itself to the general problem of censorship. Fisher argued strongly that censorship lines must be drawn to protect children, to avoid offensiveness, and to prevent incitement of sexually hostile acts. He did declare, however, "I know of no book that any adult should be precluded from reading."