Banned in Boston
Ulysses was famously banned from the United States in 1920 after one episode--involving masturbation--was published in an American literary magazine. In 1933, Random House challenged the ban by attempting to bring the book into the United States. Judge John Woolsey was assigned to the case.
Judge Woolsey writes as good a book review as I've ever read. In preparation for the case, he read the novel more than once and consulted with two friends "whose opinion on literature and life" he valued "most highly."
He concluded that Joyce was attempting "with astonishing success" to describe persons of the lower middle class living in Dublin in 1904 and describe not only what they did "but also to tell what many of them thought about the while....What he seeks to get is not unlike the results of a double or, if that is possible, a multiple exposure on a cinema film....To convey by words an effect which obviously lends itself more appropriately to a graphic technique, accounts, it seems to me, for much of the obscurity which meets a reader of 'Ulysses.'"
He further concluded that the use of the so-called "dirty words" could be justified by Joyce's sincerity and honesty, by the fact of their being "old Saxon words known to almost all men," and by the fact that "his locale was Celtic and his season spring."
Judge Woolsey properly defined the word "obscene" to mean leading "a person with average sex instincts" to sexually impure and lustful thoughts. He concluded that, "whilst in many places the effect of 'Ulysses' on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac."
Bravo Judge Woolsey!
A friend asked me the other day if I had a favorite century. I do: the 18th. It was the era of rationality. Of rationality and reasonableness, which sometimes seem to have vanished from our leadership, our founding fathers were shining examples: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams. And Judge Woolsey is a worthy heir.