May 28, 2007
And in other news, shrieks were heard emanating from a Boston apartment earlier today…
In case anyone was wondering, I’m out of town at the moment and thus have not been posting. However, I saw the headline for the following story and nearly had a fit, so I thought I’d blog about it. So, here it is: Mo. man burns books as act of protest (random thought: is it really so hard to spell out “Missouri”?)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero’s Books.
His collection ranges from best sellers, such as Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October” and Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities,” to obscure titles, like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn’t even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.
So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society’s diminishing support for the printed word.
“This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today,” Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.
The fire blazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put it out because Wayne didn’t have a permit for burning.
Wayne said next time he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply — estimated at 20,000 books — is exhausted.
…hence my shrieking. What is he thinking?? If nothing else, there could be rare books in there! I used to work in a major university library’s acquisitions department, and I have to say that if he couldn’t find a library to take at least some of his books, he didn’t try very hard. Also, what about online used booksellers, like Alibris or Abebooks? I suspect he might have been able to find good homes for a good chunk of the titles that way.
More from the article after the fold.
“After slogging through the tens of thousands of books we’ve slogged through, and to accumulate that many and to have people turn you away when you take them somewhere, it’s just kind of a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “And it’s a good excuse for fun.”
Wayne said he has seen fewer customers in recent years as people more often get their information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, that found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, down from almost 57 percent in 1982. . . .
Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of children’s literature, which he said he’d save for his 4-year-old son.
“I think, given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it’s the best way to do it,” Bechtel said. “(Wayne has) made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it.”
I find the statement that having the books turned away is a good excuse for “fun” (i.e. burning them) both telling and alarming. I appreciate the argument that’s being made — I agree that it’s heartbreaking that Americans don’t read more — but I’m just not sure that burning books is truly the best way to make that argument.