The New York Times|
Feb. 5, 1947
School Ban Asked on 'Citizen Paine'
Book is Declared Undesirable in Superintendents' Report to Board of Education
The Board of Superintendents decided yesterday that Howard Fast's best-selling historical novel, "Citizen Tome Paine," was undesirable as reading matter for children and recommended that it be removed from the New York City public school libraries.
A spokesman at the Board of Education, 110 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, said that the superintendents' action was motivated by a complaint received from "someone outside the school system" that the book contained passages "too purple to be read by children." He emphasized that the recommended ban had no connection with the author's reputed affiliation with the Communist party or with Thomas Paine's religious views.
"Ridiculous," Says Author
Mr. Fast said last night that the superintendents' action was "unspeakable" and "ridiculous" and that it constituted "a form of book burning." The 32-year-old author who has published nine novels, including "The American," which has sold 750,000 copies since it was published last August said that "three or four million" persons have read "Citizen Tom Paine" and that no complaints about it had ever been received by him.
He declared that if anyone wanted to look for "so-called purple passages" they could be found in numerous American literary classics such as "The Scarlet Letter," "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "in three-fourths of the works of Mark Twain."
As for his reputed membership in the Communist party, Mr. Fast replied that he had been "accused of that many times." He would neither confirm nor deny the affiliation and implied that this question was his personal business.
The superintendents' action was also condemned by Charles Duell, president of Duell, Sloan & Pearce, Inc., of 270 Madison Avenue, the original publishers of "Citizen Tom Paine." Mr. Duell reported that the book, which was first issued on April 22, 1943, had attained a sale of 810,000 copies excluding editions published by the Modern Library and the World Publishing Company.
A regular meeting of the board is scheduled for this afternoon, but the members are not expected to act on the superintendents' recommended ban of the novel, since the matter has not been placed on the calendar. Action may be taken, however, at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 26.