Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bookseller burns books to protest low readership

WOW! I can't believe I'm still on this train of thought...but, thanks to blogger Joshua Varney (Cubicle Denizen), who sent me this news clip from the Houston Chronicle, I couldn't help myself...It is so...well, you decide what it is. The story that ran in the Chronicle May 28, 2007 told of a Montana used books seller, Tom Wayne, who, after trying to give away surplus books from his store to no avail decided to burn them instead.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne said as he lit his first batch of books outside his store. He quoted a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts that revealed a reduction in 'reading for pleasure' by adults from 57% (in 1982) to less than half. Having supposedly exhausted his efforts to divest himself of these surplus books, Wayne added about the book burning, "'s a good excuse for fun." AAK! Why don't we just roast some marshmallows while we watch and tell ghost stories...

One of the horrified spectators, Marcia Trayford, paid Wayne $20 to carry away an armload of books. "I've been trying to adopt as many books as I could," she said. Among them, ironically, Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. I found it ironic, too, that she used the word 'adopt', which breathes life into each book, echoing what Ray Bradbury said in my previous post.

When Josh fed me this story, he mentioned e-bay, charities, etc. Surely Wayne hadn't even begun to exhaust the possibilities for finding these books a home! What about shipping them overseas? Another spectator suggested that Wayne "made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it." I'm sorry, but I don't get that message at all. Wayne's inept and destructive act of futility only further illustrates a feckless mentality that unwittingly condones censorship and lack of reading. He would have elevated himself to a hero and made a more powerful statement to America if he'd done something positive instead; presented a solution instead of a feeble complaint.

I liked the comment to the story by patrickindallas the best: "It has finally been proven. Just being around books does NOT increase intelligence."

Thanks for the story, Josh!


Virginia said...

The book burning was a publicity stunt. I don't know how many books were sacrificed, but it seems to have caused a lot of outrage and discussion. I think we should be more outraged at the fact that he couldn't give them away! Who turns away books? We hear stories of stores, libraries, schools, etc no longer having the same demand for books and being overburdened and overstocked. If this situation is indicative of current and future trends, then it very much needs some attention.

sfgirl said...

I sure agree, Virginia. There are lots of places where people would LOVE to have books to read (third world countries, etc.)...We just don't have the system to deal with it, or more to the point, innovative, creative and "doing" sort of people to just DO IT! Like Jean-Luc Picard: "Make it so!"

Alan said...

I wish he had donated them to our library, which would have been happy to accept them.