Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Do you think anyone really noticed?

Interesting gesture. Futile,too. More so because of the thousands of infantile crappy books which should be on pyre.

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 "The 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 yesterday, Mr. 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," Mr. 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 Mr. Wayne didn't have a permit for burning. Mr. Wayne said that next time, he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply -- estimated at 20,000 books -- is exhausted. "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." Mr. 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, which found that fewer than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, down from almost 57 percent in 1982. Kansas City has seen the number of used-book stores decline in recent years, and there are few independent bookstores left in town, said Will Leathem, a co-owner of Prospero's Books. "There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five TVs and three books," Mr. Leathem said. The idea of burning the books horrified Marcia Trayford, who paid $20 Sunday to carry away an armload of tomes on art, education and music. "I've been trying to adopt as many books as I could," she said. Dozens of other people took advantage of the book-burning, searching through the books waiting to go into the flames for last-minute bargains. 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," Mr. Bechtel said. "[Wayne has] made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it."


Anonymous said...

Is there any way to buy or preserve his stock? This is not a futile gesture. It is an insane gesture. The way to remedy this situation is through dialog and education. We have to be brutally honest with each other and tell the truth about the publishing industry, the state of American schools, the poor quality of African American general fiction and non-fiction and "pandering" (Nat Turner's term :-) ) to ignorant story lines and characters.

However, it is a frightening thing when book owners are burning books. I suppose the subtext in your blog is that creepy government forces (who usually burn books) don't need to do it anymore because we are blissfully ignorant already?

Snowman said...

Tisk Tisk. Idiotic waste.

Anonymous said...

I love books. I would never had read "Sympathy" if it was only available online. I don't read enough, but when I need an escape, that's where I go.

As a former cold warrior, I abhor the idea of burning books. I abhor the idea of school libraries banning books. But, this guy's protest has a point. How many Gen X'ers and later know what to do with a book?

Yes, there is a lot of trash out there. Fiction and non-fiction. Especially the tomes written by ex-policy wonks who are bitter with their fates.

Princeton just asked me for my thesis. As an engineer, it didn't get into the archives. I'll send it to them, perhaps hand deliver it this weekend. I hope they like coal.

supergirlest said...

i can assure that a lot of people have noticed and are talking about this - which was the intention. the burn was a sparking of a community dialogue - which somehow turned into a world wide one. the phones are ringing off the hook - thousands upon thousands of emails are pouring in.

yes - prosperos is selling the books for a dollar a piece. that money will go towards publishing local authors.

Anonymous said...

Burning books? That was flat-out stupid. What he should've done was donate them to other countries. Now that would've sent a message. If he had sent the books to schools in Africa, China, India, or Cuba, he would've helped a lot of kids.

He could've also tried to set up some type of reading program in the inner cities or in the poor rural areas.

He got attention doing this all right, plenty of the negative kind.