Girls lean back everywhere: the law of obscenity and the assault on genius
, Mar 17, 1992
- 814 pages
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 ofAmericans 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 Brennan and the Warren Court will increasingly be challenged. The artistic freedom that our generation enjoys may prove to be only an interlude in the unending struggle between art and the impulse to suppress it. Girls Lean Back Everywhere is a landmark account of a historic and continuing struggle of the human spirit.