29 May 2007

i need a nap.

i've spent the last two days fielding myspace messages and comments to the tune of hundreds. the phone keeps ringing - calls from the bbc, cnn, talk shows, you name it. notes and calls from all over the world abound. will answers 1000 emails and 1000 more come in. blogs are popping up left and right about what idiots (fucktards is my favorite so far) will and tom are and how they need to be medicated. i've been scattering to and fro trying to respond as best i can. it looks that about half of the people understand and the other half are simply pissed.

and then i found this, written by the operator of a little establishment i often send people to and think is an important pillar in the community - the kansas city infoshop. after my initial knee jerk response of et tu, brute? - i realized that many people aren't hearing what is being said: too. many. people. aren't. reading. in the ap article, will is quoted as saying that there are homes having estate sales where there is a television in every room and three books. i've seen it during our book hunting adventures. i find this to be dangerous for a culture and a society. when reading dies, so does thought. imagination. that is what book burnings have served for in the past - the censorship of idea and thought. and honestly, when i venture away from my little comfort zone - i find that thought about anything other than what shoes match an outfit or who got traded to what team is fairly non-existent...

i find it really interesting that people are freaking out about books being burned, when the real debate should be why aren't people reading? the library throws books away, as well as bookstores. it happens. where is the outrage? no dialogue can surface this way, when it happens silently, away from the public eye. the burning was an attempt to draw attention to this - to spark a discussion where one is desperately needed. it wasn't a "stunt" to drum up business. the money from the saved books will go publish some of the best regional and local authors around- this is something that will is fiercely supportive of and has been since i've known him - all things local - art, music, literature, free thought. i'm also hearing this was a terrible way to "do it." how else? no one talks about not reading, what to do then? i can honestly say, it is nice to have a conversation about books rather than sports for once. and i don't know that kansas city needed a book burning to look "ignorant and backwards" (overwhelming support of bush's warring in the face of this, crappy mass transit, sprawl, poverty, schools, the unwavering trust in the we're-kinda-the-same-but-different two party system, flag stickers, natural resource addictions) nor do i think this did a disservice to any other local book sellers.

i figured that maybe the media would run the release and a few people would show up to save some books. i never would've imagined that it all would've turned into this. but dialogue is ALWAYS good - even when the details aren't agreed upon.

to answer a few of the more resounding comments that have come my way:

1. these 20,000 books headed for the fire have been stored in a storage area for years after having tried to give them away repeatedly or sell them. the prisons say they could contain contraband and return them, etc. as for the schools that need them, teachers are always given books at cost, sometimes even for free. much of what is in the burn pile isn't child age material...

2. the C02 emissions from the burning! shame on you!
that fire produced no more than any of the other millions of bar-b-que grills did on memorial day weekend. prospero's doesn't turn on the a/c until the humidity reaches a point where it is necessary to do so, so that the books aren't harmed. there is coating on the windows, and compact florescent bulbs are used. we are all conscientious of how our ecological footprint. we walk where ever we can. perfect? no. but we try.

3. everyone has an idea of what prospero's should to do with the books, but, what can you do? this is a toughie. prospero's is a bookstore, after all - giving away books after spending even more years trying to figure out who needs them and shipping them off at an added cost would have the doors closed in no time flat. the store is operated by two people. there is no staff. this is bigger than two people. know of a place that needs donations? come and get the books for a dollar and pass them on... or - head out to your own locally owned book shops and start there. they need your support and apparently there are people hungry for books that can't get them, though they are turned away. also, contact your libraries and bookstores where you live, save the books they are going to trash and find a place to donate them to.

4. they didn't burn the entire stock of the bookstore. no one "snapped."

and there it is, my cents, for whatever it is worth. i really believe this is a good thing.

and looky there - bebe has a book in hand. i can't think of a better thing to do.

read on, brothers and sisters!

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