The Seven Minutes: A case against censorship

The Seven Minutes is a novel about a novel.

Barely visible nude woman on her back
The sexual element is central to, but not the focus of,  Irving Wallace’s bestseller The Seven Minutes.

An Oakland, CA, bookstore owner sells a pre-release copy of The Seven Minutes to undercover cops who arrest him for selling pornography.

Shortly thereafter, a college boy from a good family confesses to rape and murder. He claims reading the French-printed copy of the novel, which was banned worldwide as pornographic and blasphemous, was behind his assault.

Fearing he’ll be left with thousands of unsaleable books, the publisher hires his friend Michael Barrett to defend the bookstore owner.

The District Attorney realizes that by prosecuting the case he can muster support for his planned run for Congress.

Despite its sexy topic (the banned novel relates a woman’s thoughts during seven minutes of sexual intercourse) I suspect many readers found The Seven Minutes over-hyped.

Although there is graphic sex in the novel—and some scuzzy lowlife characters—it’s a small portion of the page count.

The meat of the story is the exhausting legwork the defense slogs through to build its case.

Irving Wallace gives Barrett long passages to recite from cases and legal scholars. Unless Barrett has a photographic memory, the quotations not only  interrupt the story flow, but are implausible.

If you’re interested in the censorship issues, I suggest you read The Seven Minutes once for the story, then go back to examine the legal arguments.

The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace
Pocket Books, 1969. [paper] 630 p. 1969 bestseller #6. My grade: B.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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