Monday, May 28, 2007

A Book Burning in the South

It's usually a sad enough affair when one hears about a book burning in the South, but news of the latest book burning is particularly sad because the person who's doing it loves the books he's destroying.

Tom Wayne is the proprietor of Prospero Books in Kansas City, Missouri. Over the years, he's amassed a backlog of some twenty-thousand books. Recently he decided that it would be a good idea to donate that backlog to libraries and thrift shops but was nonplussed when he was told that they already had more than enough books, thank you very much.

Tom Wayne is a dispirited man. He has discovered that our culture no longer places much value in books. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, reading for pleasure has dropped over 57% in the last two decades. Tom says that he often goes to yard sales where there are four televisions for sale and only three books… a claim that doesn't sound the least bit preposterous to me.

Tom's book burning is a protest, of sorts. He describes it as the "funeral pyre for thought in America".

While, I can't bring myself to agree with his methods – I feel too much of a visceral connection to books to ever condone their burning, whatever the justification – I can certainly understand his frustration and the basic motive of his protest.

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