Be Still My Heart
Midtown shop owner protests what he sees as a diminishing support for the printed word.
By DAVID TWIDDY
The Associated Press
The flames rose Sunday as Tom Wayne burned used books at Prospero’s Books at 39th and Bell streets. He hopes to make this a monthly event.
Photo gallery: Book burning at Prospero's Books
In the 10 years Tom Wayne has operated Prospero’s Books, a used bookstore in midtown Kansas City, he has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse.
Ranging from best sellers such as Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, to obscure titles such as a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910 and a textbook on beginning Polish, the books won’t sell. Wayne said even local libraries and thrift stores have told him they were full.
On Sunday, Wayne began putting them to the torch, tossing scores of books into a burning cauldron to protest 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 fireblazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put it out because Wayne didn’t have a burning permit.
Wayne said he would get a permit for next time. He said he envisioned monthly bonfires until his supply — estimated at 20,000 books — was exhausted.
He said he had noticed a decline in customers and perceived more people getting information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, which found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, a decline from almost 57 percent in 1982.
Dozens of customers took advantage of the event, scouring the pile of books waiting to go into the fire, looking forlast-minute bargains.
Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of children’s literature.
“I think given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it’s the best way to do it,” Bechtel said.
Did anyone see this on the news?
Next question: Did you nearly have a coronary?
At first, I nearly choked watching this man burn books!! My thoughts went to: is he crazy or what? Did the word "SALE" not enter his mind???!
Or is this man really smart? It did bring to the attention that reading books is on the decline. (very sad, but true) It also gave him national coverage that will possibly send him many offers to take the books off his hands. Hmmm.. I hope he chose books he really expected would never sell before piling them into the trash to burn!!
It makes me wonder why teachers don't promote reading anymore? I mean, they MAKE KIDS READ the standard school books, but you never hear of any promoting the individual reading of books each kid may actually enjoy. I wonder why that is?
Trying to think back to my school days, things really haven't changed. I can remember the "assigned books", (few if any were anything that drew me into them) but, I can't ever remember a teacher giving the students an assignment of reading a book of their choice and then making a report on it. Possibly asking "why" they liked it and "why" they would recommend the book to others....
... and then they blame the fact that kids have no imagination anymore because of television and computers. Duh.. well.. it needs to be promoted at a young age and repeated throughout their youth to give them the opportunity to understand that reading is fun too!
I just hope this was a way to make more people want books... if it's not, then it's sure a sad state of affairs.
I wish I had been there! I woulda made a killing gabbing books for almost nothing!
...'till next time...