Saturday, November 17, 2012

Burning books

I used to joke about burning my textbooks at the end of every semester. My plan was to get a big group of people together—all laden down with the textbooks that put them to sleep and broke their backs—lug the offending books up to a canyon somewhere, and throw a big bonfire.

Of course, I never did it. It would have required too much effort and planning for one, and, no matter how much I hated a book, I felt a little Hitler-ish even joking about sending it to its fiery grave. So of the books I had no wish to see again, I sold back the ones I could and threw away my science textbooks.

As you all know, I bought J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy, awhile back. It became clear to me early on that this definitely wasn't going to be a book I would reread. So I decided I would try to sell it when I finished it.

I got even further into the book, and the thought of making a profit out of putting this book into someone's unknowing, innocent hands made me feel a little guilty. So my next plan was to recycle it, make the book pay for the tree to whom it owes its life.

I finally finished the book. Over the next few days, I noticed a lot more sunshine in my life, sunshine that couldn't get through the dark cloud that was hovering over my head during my two-week mad dash to finish the book no matter what. My hatred for the book had just become a lot more personal. It wasn't just the time I wasted reading the book now; it was the effect it had on my life while I was reading it. Suddenly, recycling it seemed too good a punishment for this book. My thoughts once again strayed to my bonfire of burning books, only this time it was hundreds of copies of just one book rather than a variety of old textbooks.

The idea was hard to push aside, especially since my fireplace has become my new favorite toy of late.

And then something snapped. I did the unthinkable: I tore out the first 10 pages of The Casual Vacancy.

There was no stopping me now.

Feeling like I did the time I cut seminary to buy prom shoes, I lit the pages on fire and watched with glee as the flames erupted right there in front of me. (Note to self: paper makes much bigger flames than wood.) I continued to feed the fire a few pages at a time. (Note #2 to self: paper burns a lot faster than wood). I watched in fascination as the blackened corners curled up into ashen balls and disintegrated through the fire grate. I thought about all the characters I abhorred and how their existence was melting away right in front of me, about how the hellish town was literally being devoured by fire. It made me smile.

After the 503 interior pages were blessedly gone, I threw in the dust jacket. Throwing something into flames that are inside your living quarters is probably not the smartest thing to do, by the way. I was a little worried when the flames whooshed upward and the dust jacket started bubbling all weirdly (from that point on I kept my ice-cold fridge water by my side, just in case), but I'm sure this fireplace has weathered more dangers than the likes of me playing with it. I promise, Mom, my life (and my apartment building) was never in any real danger. Although if anyone heard my evil giggles emanating from my apartment they might have thought otherwise.

And finally, it was the cover's turn to go. I almost couldn't get it to catch fire, but the flames eventually started slowly licking away at the spine.

A half hour later, my book was gone. It was nothing more than a rather large pile of ashes, some of which still have letters on them. Take that, you vile, crummy book.

*I have to point out that even though I loved hating on this book, that doesn't mean I think everyone else should burn their copies, nor would I apply physical force to keep anyone away from the book (if they are older than 18, that is). Because that would really be Hitler-ish of me.*

So good-bye, The Casual Vacancy. You will not be missed.


  1. This is probably the greatest thing I have ever seen. Period.

  2. Mom wants to know why you didn't invite us. We could have brought pizza.

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  4. Well, it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision. Maybe we can have a book-burning party some other time. The only book I can think of that comes close to deserving this fate is Jack Kerouac's (sp?) On the Road, and I don't think I have a copy of that one. Thank goodness. Do you have a book you'd like to burn?

  5. Haha! This is AWESOME. I don't feel bad anymore that I haven't read it and probably never will. :)