More than a century ago, Mark Twain’s short story Eve’s Diary was banned from a Massachusetts library due to nude illustrations of biblical Eve. But nowadays, with books like Twilight and Crank being constantly challenged for censorship, the artistic representations of Eve don’t seem so tasteless after all.
In celebration of Banned Books Week, the Charlton Public Library unanimously voted last week to reinstate Twain’s embargoed book — revealing drawings and all — reversing a decision that was made by trustee Frank Wakefield in 1906.
Written from the perspective of Eve, the story imagines what the first woman ever created might have thought about the world and her mate, Adam. (Did we mention that Eve’s Diary is available to read for free online at Project Gutenberg?) Besides honestly trying to catch stars and cuddling with tigers, Twain’s representation of Eve is comparable to most women — she likes to talk, is often confused by her relationship with Adam, and can be quite restless. But Shelley Fisher Fishkin, a Twain scholar at Stanford University, told the New York Times that the story was written after Twain’s wife, Olivia, passed away, and is, “infused with his appreciation for the women he was close to.”
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When the story was banned in 1906, Mark Twain himself was not particularly concerned, saying in a letter, “the truth is, that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.”
But Charlton Library director Cheryl Hansen felt that it was an important step to make the story available to readers. “I think that Mark Twain would be very pleased, and I’m sure that he would have something humorous to say about it,” Hansen told the Guardian.
Two copies of Eve’s Diary are now stocked at the Charlton Public Library, in addition to an older-edition copy that is to be displayed in a glass case. But good luck getting your hands on one. According to Reuters, within hours of being re-shelved, one copy was checked out. And somehow, we don’t think it’s because of the risque drawings.