Girls Lean Back Everywhere: Laws of Obscenity and the Trials of Genius

Girls Lean Back Everywhere: Laws of Obscenity and the Trials of Genius

by Edward De Grazia
     
 

Only in our own time have writers and other artists been free to write, sing, and depict what they want. Girls Lean Back Everywhere shows how writers, artists, and their legal defenders achieved this precarious freedom by defeating, if only for the time being, their equally irrepressible antagonists. Girls Lean Back Everywhere is the story of how the arts in America…  See more details below

Overview

Only in our own time have writers and other artists been free to write, sing, and depict what they want. Girls Lean Back Everywhere shows how writers, artists, and their legal defenders achieved this precarious freedom by defeating, if only for the time being, their equally irrepressible antagonists. Girls Lean Back Everywhere is the story of how the arts in America finally came to be protected under the First Amendment, thanks to the stubborn resolve of a few artists, publishers, and exhibitors, together with the efforts of a handful of lawyers and the simple courage and moral brilliance of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. But this book does far more than trace the triumph of a great legal principle. It is also a vivid portrait, told often in their own voices, of those remarkable twentieth-century artists who defied their powerful opponents and courageously insisted on their absolute right to free expression. Edward de Grazia has crafted an extraordinary chronicle of the battles fought and won in our century in behalf of free expression. In showing how this struggle affected the careers of such artists as Joyce, Lawrence, Edmund Wilson, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, and, in our own decade, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, and others, de Grazia demonstrates the enormous price that these artists and our culture paid for their victories--the misery, the rejection, the energies wasted, the work not done. By the 1960s it had become clear that such writers as Joyce, Lawrence, Henry Miller, and William Burroughs were here to stay and that the Warren Court, led by Justice Brennan, was wise enough to ratify what the majority of Americans clearly wanted. But as de Grazia also shows in this brilliant book, the hand of the censor has not lost its cunning. As forms of expression undreamed of by the founding fathers approach--as art always will--the limits of public tolerance, the great achievement of Justice Br

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A remarkable tour de force of literary/legal sleuthing, this massive chronicle of the conflict between artistic expression and censorship covers a vast terrain, from the burning of Zola's novels and the imprisonment of his English publisher, Henry Vizetelly, to the controversies over Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs and rap group 2 Live Crew's record album. De Grazia, a law professor at Cardozo Law School in New York City, who successfully argued the Tropic of Cancer case before the Supreme Court, focuses on writers, publishers and booksellers who stuck their necks out. Through a lively account of the trials and tribulations of James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Radclyffe Hall, Theodore Dreiser, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce and others, he demonstrates how interference with creativity by prosecutors, police and judges violates First Amendment freedoms. De Grazia anchors his arguments in legal scholarship. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
De Grazia ( Censorship Landmarks , LJ 2/15/70; Banned Films , LJ 11/15/82), a renowned defender of First Amendment rights, has written a comprehensive but very readable and thought-provoking history of literary censorship and the continuing legal and constitutional struggle to define ``obscenity.'' He enhances our understanding of the ongoing conflict between art and censors by interspersing gossipy background stories with the candid, inspiring, and sometimes desperate words of authors James Joyce, Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, and William Burroughs; famous publishers; and others. De Grazia firmly believes that the enlightened interpretations of the First Amendment evidenced in landmark Supreme Court decisions on Joyce's Ulysses (1933) and Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1964) have been eroded by the Burger and Rehnquist courts. Librarians have only to look at recent controversies over National Endowment for the Arts legislation and the 2 Live Crew trial to understand his warning that the ``power of art to offend and alarm seems to be as great as ever.'' Highly recommended as required reading for all librarians and everyone interested in intellectual freedom issues. For ``The Coming Censorship: A Talk with Jason Epstein,'' see Behind the Book, p. 112.--Ed.-- Jacqueline Adams, Carroll Cty. P.L., Westminster, Md.
Booknews
Distinguished First Amendment lawyer de Grazia tells the story of how the arts in America finally came to be protected under the First Amendment, but even more remarkable is the revealed portrait, told often in their own voices, of those 20th century artists who defied powerful opponents to insist on their absolute right to free expression--Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Lenny Bruce, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karen Finley, et al. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780394576114
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/17/1992
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
992

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