Tuesday, May 29, 2007

If you don't buy 'em, we burn 'em

Via Shelf Awareness, an amazing story out of the state full of curious incidences... okay, I hesitate. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should confess to being from Texas, and with the whole "glass houses" thing, I should watch myself.

Anyhow, I mean Kansas, and this story by AP writer David Twiddy about a used bookstore owner there who is using his stock to create a "funeral pyre for thought in America today." The article reports, "he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply — estimated at 20,000 books — is exhausted."

[Edit: Please note that it has been brought to my attention that the story is in Kansas City, Missouri - a point that must annoy folks from that fine city constantly. Thank you to Prof. Hex for correcting this silly mistake on my part!]

And a quick note from the article: the customers came running before the bonfire, grabbing stacks of books for as low as $10. I'm all for a clearance sale, but it is hilarious that the books have to be this cheap, and the bookseller this desperate, to bring people out. Is this the new bar? Holding the books hostage and threatening to burn them unless bought?

I'm sure every book blogger will be linking to this today. It's obscene, bizarre, shocking, sensational, tragic, and frustrating. Some folks see the bookseller, Tom Wayne of Prospero's Books in Kansas City, as a hero (and follow that link to see his take on the burning). He's making a point. Written thought has become disposable, and Americans no longer value reading books, having books, getting to know books.

I'm still processing this. Because, to be honest, every bibliophile has had the struggle of looking at a book that you no longer want, but that you know is worth nothing. Used bookstores like the wonderful Brattle Book Shop snottily turn up their nose at your tattered copy of some obscure book on Catholic martyrs. So what do you do? I cannot throw away a book, so if I did, or even worse, if I burned a pile.... it would be a dramatic and very difficult act for me to do, with grave meaning.

Interpreted like this, maybe Wayne is a hero, a book-lovin' man driven to extremes. Please please please, though, do not let this become a trend...


Prof. Hex said...

Nice post, and cheers to you for actually reading the article and thinking about the point Tom is trying to make. And Prospero's is actually in Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas.

On a side note, I just got back from my first trip to Boston and the Brattle Book Shop. Great town, great book store.

supergirlest said...

he is indeed a book loving man... it wasn't just that no one would buy them - prosperos tried repeatedly to give them away. they have been sitting in a storage area for years after numerous failed attempts.

and yes - the idea was to sound off loud and clear in the hopes of there being a discussion about the decline of reading in this country. as i see here, mission accomplished.