BURN ALL BOOKS*
Le Bonfire d’Insanité
Gratuitous, hyperbolic, sensational, pandering to the uninformed masses…
Any of those words or phrases might aptly describe this headline. All of those words I would rightly credit as being learned from reading books.
That inane introduction now read, the big question for me is whether or not we should ban any books.
Currently, there’s a movement across the country to do just that. That’s if you believe the media, which tends to veer towards a bit of prodding exaggeration.
Nonetheless and allthemore, it’s a question that both irked and inspired me this morning, when I discovered that Milo and Olivia had unilaterally, ensembles, decided to get rid of all the books that they “did not want.”
Despite my desire to keep calm and apply reason, patience and parental wisdom in this the situation, I merely reacted as if I were human.
It’s been a good year or so that their older brother’s fetish with Japanese anime books began. In my humble opinion, although they may look like books, they’re not really. In reality, they’re just comic books disguised to look like books, so that the publisher can charge paperback book prices.
Either way, the obsession was passed on to the littlest brother, and now there is a library of them in the house.
Thus, I had mixed feelings about the situation. Although at Milo‘s age I also loved comic books and I too amassed a substantial collection, it was not at the sacrifice of my love and appreciation for what I would consider “real” books.
Hence, when I saw the pile of books scattered about the floor, which the littlest ones had uniformly decided that they were giving away, I could not help but react in frustration and disbelief, especially since underneath that pile of pulp and cardboard, I could see the tattered edges of some of the very first books that I read in first grade.
Needless to say, those grade school primers were kept and cherished all these years because they were heirlooms and token momentos of my love of reading and learning, which during my lifetime, was primarily done via books.
And, admittedly, I harbor my own strange fetish, if you consider that I own hundreds of books that either I may never ever read again or that I may never read at all.
That said, my books represent what I value in life, and so it’s very difficult for me to simply give them up.
Granted, for more than twenty years the digital revolution has been a quintessential part of my life.
Whether it’s transitioning from carting about crates of vinyl, a couple of turntables and a mixer to having thousands of songs and mixing software on my laptop; or going through cycle after cycle after cycle of transferring assets such as manuscripts, manuals and any word-based content to the newest storage media starting with floppy disks than hard disks and thumb drives and shared drives and now having everything in the cloud; or simply going from analog rolls of film to purely digital photography done initially with Canon cameras, but now exclusively captured with my iPhone…all of that demonstrates to me that giving up the material version of my prized possessions is possible…
Moreover, a good portion of what I “read” everyday is digital already.
Everything from work documents, the news, or the latest subject or DYI task I’m doing a deep dive into, is primarily done by reading it online, via email, or watching a YouTube video or streaming broadcast - much of that content we once never had instantly at our disposal, on demand and which you could only get through books, magazines or newspapers (remember those?).
That all said, although I have read books online, on kindles and on my phone, and I have listened to maybe a few dozen through Audible, it’s not the same experience as holding and slowly leafing through a paper copy.
Thus, despite the fact that I’ve got one foot in the Matrix already, we continue to have “a library“ of real books, and as long as Amazon continues to offer them, I will unapologetically continue to whimsically buy more. It’s purely an irrational impulse too, considering that I cannot buy the extra time I need to read them.
Perhaps, it’s because I’m a writer and I’ve written books that the idea of a virtual bonfire of them is so anathematic to me.
So, to come full circle in this musing I asked myself “Should any books be banned?”
Why can’t readers decide what book they want to read or not? Is this phenomenon a reflection of the societal cancer called “cancel culture”? Anytime a book or an article or another piece of content becomes antiquated, simply because it does not abide by the cultural and community standards of the day, should it no longer be made available?
Although that proposal seems as ludicrous as my obsession with books to me, I would argue that in essence this movement is essentially banning history.
What we learn, do, think, feel, perceive and preserve as a society is part of a never-ending, ever-changing, multi-colored and utterly fascinating spectrum, dimension and plane of (r)evolutionary thought and action.
Hence, after fully contemplating the fate of the bonfire of books on the floor of Milo’s room, I still had to obstinately hold to my original parental declaration - “They go back on the shelf. For someday you’ll get over your fetish for comic books, much like I did, and you’ll want to begin reading real books.”
After reading what I said, admittedly, it feels quite old-fashioned, but nonetheless and allthemore, I’m sticking to my guns.
Then again, perhaps this otherwise inexplicable stubbornness is simply a reflection of the comic book-like fantasy life I lead - as a wannabe country boy, cowboy, farmer, writer, superstar DJ, good person, good father and one of my longest held fantasies…to be and become a reclusive renaissance man-cum-storied gentlemen scholar who whimsically ventures about the world sourcing material for a prodigious volume of insights, but who always returns home to his homestead of Ithaca to quietly retreat into a warm-colored and voluminous library that would rival that of Alexandria.
There, I said it, and now, you know.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the un-rightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest,
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless,
No matter how far.
- The Impossible Dream by Lyricist Joe Darion
*Originally, I had titled this musing “BAN ALL BOOKS” with the subtitle
“(Our Bonfire of Books).”