Allen Ginsberg reading to a crowd at Washington Square Park, New York, 1960
The Tempest (1508), by Giorgione | Depicted here is a naked woman nursing an infant by a stream in the midst of a stormy night, while a soldier observes from nearby. Or is it? Some art historians suggest that the man is not a soldier, but a shepherd. Others claim he’s member of a club of unmarried men, a character from a poem, or a depiction of the biblical Adam. Nobody’s positive about the woman’s identity either, though some have proposed that she is Eve, Mary, or a perhaps a prostitute. An x-ray of the painting revealed that the man was originally painted as another nude female, which throws a twist into the story. Art scholars and historians have been intrigued with this painting, yet the consensus is still that there is no explanation. It might be an early example of the anti-subject, or it might be a subject that is simply no longer accessible.
Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs, was the last book brought to an obscenity trial by the United States Supreme Court in 1966. The experimental work is a cut up of psychology research, heroin induced visions, taboo sex and violence. Happy banned books week!
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Kate Baylay’s illustrations for The Olive Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang