There's been an awful lot of talk lately about burning books. Holy or not, no page deserves to reach the kindling point of Fahrenheit 451. Though constructed of the most fragile of materials, they must endure.
When I was a boy, my mother made it clear that no book, especially a Bible, was ever to be destroyed or its pages harmed. She taught me to appreciate and cherish books.
My wife wishes I didn't cherish them so much, because I hate to part with a single one, whether I've read it once, a dozen times, or not yet. She is a faster reader, and the other night I asked her how many books she has gone through since I have known her. She didn't have a word for a number that large.
Unlike me, however, she sets her books free after reading them, returning them to various libraries or giving them away.
It's not as though anyone ever asks to borrow my books, anyway.
I don't know a lot of people who want to spend the weekend with A History of Dirt or Odd Facts About Even Numbers. (Well, that's what my wife thinks of my reading choices, anyway.)
Would I ever burn a book? Let me count the ways I have considered it over the years.
I'm a little perturbed at the almanac for saying my tomatoes would do well this summer. They did not. Officially, I blame the week we were out of town on vacation because that was the one week it didn't rain and our garden dried up for good. Unofficially, I would like to strangle the almanac's throat.
There was a logic textbook in college that I was at odds with. The professor had written the textbook, and on the first day of class he handed out a list of errata so we could make corrections in our new books.
If I hadn't already bought the book, I would have dropped the class. I mean, if an expert in logic made mistakes in a book that was written to teach me the subject, that class was flawed from the beginning. It seemed to be a case of the illogical leading the illogical.
By the way, those of you who know me might be surprised that I studied logic. I did, and by the end of the semester I had the option of keeping my B grade or risking it by taking the final exam and trying for an A -- or lower.
Was it logical for me to risk what some consider a good grade? Ask Mr. Spock. All I know is that I got my A. I never took another class in logic, though.
If I held that textbook in my hands today, with its corrections scribbled throughout, I might be inclined to put it out of its misery.
Then there have been the books that I would love to collect every copy of and throw onto a huge bonfire -- all that destruction just so I could write the authors' words down afresh and claim them as my own: Twain's Life on the Mississippi. Hugo's Les Misérables. Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Fielding's Tom Jones. Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Heller's Catch-22. Heinlein's Glory Road. Those, and a couple million more.
No, it's more fun reading than writing, and as soon as I finish these lines I'm going to find a quiet corner and an old book, safely away from the flames.