Have you ever destroyed a book?
Have you ever hated a book so bad you just had to get rid of it? Perhaps feared it so much you had to make certain it was obliterated utterly?
If you love them as much as I do you may find it difficult to imagine, but books are powerful, and they can inspire powerful emotions. Words are powerful.
I have to admit I have thrown a book away on a couple of occasions.
I know. . . I’m not proud of it.
Looking back I can’t even recall which book drove me to it first, but I recall feeling it was worthless; badly plotted and badly written. I felt it was important that it not be allowed to continue to occupy space in the physical world.
I threw it in the trash. Not even the recycling, where some poor sweet schlub—maybe a guy whose wife is trying to learn English and who likes to read—might find it and bring it home. No. The recycling offered too much chance of redemption. Nothing was good enough but to huck it right in the trash with the eggshells, smelly banana peels and old lettuce.
When I was a teen my mother came home from work one afternoon and mentioned a friend of hers had burned a book. The Exorcist, or The Amityville Horror; it was one of those two, but I can’t recall which, all these years later. She said Moselle was so freaked out by the book, that it scared her so bad, she thought it might actually bring something evil her way, and so she took it out to her patio grill, poured lighter fluid on it, and set it on fire.
I remember my first thought was that Moselle was as ignorant as cheese. My next thought was that if something evil could follow a book, burning the book was risky and counter-intuitive, because something evil would undoubtedly enjoy a dramatic, fiery scene like that. Would possibly even be drawn to it. My teen-aged brain, all hopped up on Stephen King and Lovecraft, imagined some green, warty, frog-skinned demon with long ears and lidless eyes dancing a jiggity-jig around Moselle’s book burning, and getting so worked up by the woman’s fear as it watched her above the yellow tongues of flame it felt compelled to press its lamprey-like mouth to the throbbing pulse in her neck.
All unknown to her, of course. She’d be busy burning and never notice the sudden fatigue until the book was reduced to flaky, curling ashes that fell through the spaces in the grill. She’d feel she had to go lie down, perhaps take a little nap—but now she wouldn’t be alone.
Book burning has a long and sordid history dating back into antiquity, (Check out this list of famous book bonfires on Wiki, if you don’t believe me) and ending (but probably not) with this most recent book torching this month by Islamists in Timbuktu .
Bear in mind this list takes no notice of all the backyard barbecuing.
I wonder what will happen to this long tradition now that books can be digital? I imagine you could just hit delete, but somehow that doesn’t seem like it would be as satisfying to an Islamist extremist with a torch in his fist. Or to a National Enquirer connoisseur like my mother’s friend Moselle. There’s definitely some element of drama missing from just pressing a key.
Have you ever gleefully destroyed a book?