Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It was a Pleasure to Burn

Prospero's Books
I guess we missed the news about this "celebration." Kansas City bookstore owner Tom Wayne couldn't find anyone to buy the excess books from his store so he set out to get rid of them the only way he knew how - burning them. 
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 [May 27], 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.

"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."

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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.

1 comment:

Jay Behr said...

I do wish he would have recycled the books. I get the symbolic gesture of the burn, but I hate to see good paper pulp wasted.