Sunday, August 5, 2007

Let It Be Hypberbole

Saturday found me in a local drugs store stocking up on writing chocolate. As I was musing over the choices a woman came in and struck up a conversation with someone in the nearby pharmacy section. Even though my mind was on my most important concern I overheard bits of their talk.

“I don’t know how anyone could waste their time reading.”

My ears pricked up and my blood began to simmer.

“…got a friend who likes her romances. And when she wants a break, she reads something different!”

Then older of the two turned up my blood from simmer to boil. “… must have 5,000 books in my basement. Maybe I should just have a big bonfire.”


I’m all for freedom of speech, but some things shouldn’t be joked about, not after the book burnings of the last century.

Some people rescue puppies, others devote their time to saving historical buildings, with me it’s books. I don’t like to see them suffer.
I have to hold myself back at garage sales because I feel a deep need to rescue every book. They need good homes, someone who’ll care for them and gaze lovingly upon their spines on the shelf.

My breathing was rapid and shallow.
I will take your books.

I took my chocolate and went to pay for it.
The clerk noted how I was the second person that day to buy that amount of chocolate.
“It’s my writing chocolate.” I felt the need to express myself as writer and therefore someone who respects books, not jokes about torching them.
I forced myself to walk out of the store and not back to the woman to ask her to please tell me she was kidding.

Years ago I rescued a book from a fire. It’s an awful book all about conspiracy and the new world order. It’s written to charge up the emotions and that makes it hard to maintain rational thought. It’s easy to believe the lies and half-truths when you’re in a frenzy of paranoid fear.

It has a right to exist. If we go about burning books with which we don’t agree we’ll never see the other side of anything. Worse, we’ll forget why they’re so bad because we’ll have forgotten dissent exists.

Ignoring something won’t make it go away. Education makes it go away. We need to keep ideas in the forefront so they can be discussed and disseminated and argued.
If they’re good we need to know. If they’re bad we need to know why.

Perhaps this is a bit far afield from a woman who made a joke about having so many books, but there’ll be no book burning on my watch.


Dawn said...

Good for you, Leah. I'll join your "save the book" campaign. I get quite upset when I see people lay books down spreadeagled so that the spines will eventually break.

Another thing that upsets me is when I walk into the big stores that sell plants as a sideline and I find some wretched plant dying of lack of water.

bunnygirl said...

That's a needlessly negative attitude toward books you encountered. Surely there's a nursing home, library or charity she could donate them to.

But she doesn't read, so she's probably not well-informed, so how would she know?

Beats the heck out of me why anyone would intentionally live in ignorance.

Leah J. Utas said...

I knew I could count on you, Dawn.
Spreadeagled books hurt me, too.

Mike feels the pain of the neglected plants. Such sights bother him a great deal.

Hello Bunnygirl- there are plenty of ways to dispose of books so that others can enjoy them. You can even leave them at the local recycling depot.

Rebecca said...

Hear! Hear! I cannot understand people that don't read. They probably vote exactly the way their parents did, if at all, and have never tried food outside of their culture. How can you be broadminded about anything if you don't read?

Bookmarks are made for a purpose, you can't even tell most of my paperbacks (I know dirty words) have been read 5-6 times. (I do own hardbacks too, it's just they are harder to read in bed.)

As for plants dying....that's why I don't keep any in the house anymore, I do plant outside and I remember to water those.

Leah J. Utas said...

Rebecca, most of my paperbacks ( it's okay to say that here) don't look like they've been read either.
I've seen people open a book in the middle and bend it back cracking the spine so it would be easier to hold and read. It hurt me.

Crabby McSlacker said...

It's interesting though--I say all the time "I don't watch much TV." And I don't say it sheepishly.

Yet there are thoughtful, educational, well-crafted television programs, and there are terrible junky books. I realize I have a total double standard about forms of entertainment and education! Because I would have felt just as huffy as you did about the woman who dismissed reading as a waste of time.

Interesting post!

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Interesting thread, Leah.

Crabby, I think all we book people can be a bit snobbish about the tv people, but the difference is that if you shut off the tv in mid program or choose not to watch it at all, that show is still on the air and still available to everyone who wants to see it.

If you burn a book, that book is gone for ever and as Leah reminds us, there have been book burnings where all the copies of specific titles are destroyed. That is a danger to society


Anonymous said...

Jeez, Leah, You know I wasn't REALLY going to burn that damned book!! I just wanted to get it away from my extremely suggestible significant other!! Although, if I ever met a book that deserved burning, that was the one!!
I admire your iron control in not marching right up to that woman and begging her for those books - you must be getting soft in your middle age :)

Leah J. Utas said...

Terrie Farley Moran - Yes, that is a danger. Too many have been lost forever.

Hey Anonymous - I know you had to get it away from him. That's why the book is so awful and dangerous and why it must be kept around. It has to be taken apart and analyzed so we don't all become easy prey.

Soft in my middle-age? Could happen!

Penelope said...

Did you know in many places it is a rule that libraries must dispose of books which haven't been checked out in a certain period of time.

A good librarian lets people know about this and gets his or her buddies to start checking out books in jeopardy of the trash bin. Not all librarians are good, though . . .

Anyway, we love books here. Karen has thousands. She needs an entire room just for the books.