Dalia Alenka – The Book Smuggler


Initiator Artist: Dalia Alenka
Artwork Title: The Book Smuggler
Medium: Acrylic
Price: $350

Responder Author: John Barry
Writing Title: The Book Smuggler
Size: 11″x17″
Price: Donate to Favorite Charity


Struggles, smuggles, snuggles.

I see them all in front of me as I survey this œuvre.

Few endeavors afford as much pleasure as snuggling up to a good book, the lamp over your shoulder lighting up the pages, which, in turn, light up your mind and imagination.

But lately, in some benighted places, readers encounter a mural on a wall of restrictive regulations cobbled together to prohibit proscribed pens. Reading has migrated from being fundamental—as per Reading Is Fundamental, Inc., the oldest and largest nonprofit children’s literacy organization in the United States—to being fundamentalist.

Penetrating the reading-restriction barrier is nothing new—plus ça change, plus ça reste le même, as the French say, along with “Liberté, Égalité….,” Think of Candy, Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, to name just a few that have met bibliophilic bushwhacking over the years.

To circumvent latter-day book-banning (sometime -burning) Comstockery, bibliophile and literacy liberators have found ways to struggle past the barrier, including smuggling. Henry Miller’s Tropic, for example, was ferried in surreptitiously—camouflaged in scarves and underwear—from France, where it was not interdit, past American book-bashing bluenoses.

Look beneath the mural’s layers and you see victims: Miller, Lawrence, Burroughs, Donleavy, Nabokov….

Look lower and find modern-day villains posing as paragons of virtuous purity. Today’s book smugglers needn’t worry so much about getting redacted or renounced writing past the wall and into the US writ large. Rather, they have to find cracks through which they can bring reading freedom to locations that may be red but many of whose “leaders” are, as one in the nous knows,

true blue.

The wall is hardened and getting higher. But look to the upper right of the mural. You might see a profile with an open eye looking leftward. The biblio-prigs have theirs fully closed, along with their minds.

The struggle toward reading freedom may increasingly require smuggling in order to nurture snuggling.


Copyright © 2024 by John A. Barry