Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society's Crusade Against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil

Neil Miller, Beacon, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-5112-2
Tufts journalism professor Miller's (Sex-Crime Panic) examination of Boston's Watch and Ward society, a small but well-funded group of moral do-gooders that reigned for over 80 years, serves as a reminder to not take one's entertainment for granted. Miller painstakingly details the organization's growth, from its first meeting in May 1878, through its high profile heyday (the 20s, 30s, and 40s), to its eventual decline in the late 60s. Miller chronicles the society's battles against perceived indecency in detail, offering blow-by-blow accounts of sting operations against local booksellers and brothels, along with commentary on and insight into the group's battles against H.L. Mencken, Walt Whitman (whose use of metaphor in Leaves of Grass made "the lascivious conception only more insidious and demoralizing," according to the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice) and other literary notables. Many of Miller's tales are alarming, but his legal and procedural meanderings can sap momentum. Still, this is an important and thoroughly researched account of censorship and self-appointed moral watchdogs that will especially appeal to Bostonians and those interested in America's history of free speech. (Sept. 21)
Reviewed on: 11/22/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 159 pages - 978-0-8070-5113-9
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-0-8070-5111-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-8251-6
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