Rip Out the Binding, Tear the Glue
There’s a minor furor in the Google Plus RPG circle on which I wander around the periphery over a series of posts about a ceremonial burning of Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition, in preparation for the new fifth edition. (You may not be familiar with D&D “edition wars,” but I’m sure you can extraploate to a similar situation where fans of a particular thing that goes through multiple iterations argue loudly and fervently about which iteration is good or bad or perfect or heretical, etc.)
And then this happened on twitter:
Honestly, I think that everyone at the next Nerdly Beach Party should bring a book to toss into the fire.— Tablesaw Tablesawsen (@sawofthetable) July 29, 2014
@sawofthetable why?— Hamish (@peregrinekiwi) July 29, 2014
@peregrinekiwi Destruction by fire is a powerful personal thing. And I think many of us collect and preserve overzealously.— Tablesaw Tablesawsen (@sawofthetable) July 29, 2014
@sawofthetable Hmm. I can see that, but I would have thought giving away might be a better move than book burning.— Hamish (@peregrinekiwi) July 29, 2014
It’s probably not a coincidence that Hoarders was on in the background earlier and now I’m reexamining my relationship toward books. I’m not a hoarder, but the fear on the faces of people trying to pick which things to get rid of reminded me of the same mindlock I felt when I attempted culling my books last time I moved. It was too hard, and there wasn’t enough time for me to work my way through it, and I panicked, and all the books went into boxes.
@peregrinekiwi I have books I would hate to give even to those who wanted them, and others that would be a burden as a useless gift.— Tablesaw Tablesawsen (@sawofthetable) July 29, 2014
There were consequences to not doing so. Those books took up space and they carried an extra weight; as appropriate for books, they did so literally. The physical books that I do not need took a toll on my back, and on the bodies of my friends who helped to move them. (And I haven’t yet taken the time to do a proper culling.)
And beyond that, I have books that I do not believe are worth the trouble for anyone. I have a mass-market book with no original research that is still substantially large and heavy, because it was designed as a coffee-table book, despite a lifeless presentation. It’s not just that I don’t need this book; I don’t think anyone needs this book. And I suspect that anyone who thinks they want this book is wrong, because for a very long time, I was that person who deeply believed that they should just hold onto it for a little longer. I think that to inflict this mess of ink and wood pulp that tangentially contains some incomplete summaries of Irish genealogical information would be irresponsible. I don’t want to shift the responsibility of dispatching it onto a nonprofit organization that could instead be shelving a book of even some slim use.
But I just can’t toss it into the trash. Because it’s still a book.
I still have my first book. My copy of Where the Wild Things Are is as old, and as soiled, and as marked as you would expect. And while I feel that there’s a novelty in having that artifact, I often question why I hold onto it. The vast majority of my personal artifacts have already been worn down or given away. I don’t know how that copy would be of interest to anyone, even my own children. Now it mostly represents how hard I cling to books as other things fall away.
And there are books, too, that I think others would find value in, but that I do not feel comfortable giving. I have books that once brought me joy, but that, now, having grown older or learned terrible things about the creators, I hate to look at. I know that others would want them and read them, but I still feel responsible for my custody of them. I want to undo what I did in buying and keeping them.
Book burning, as a single phrase, is more than the burning of books. It’s burning books at someone. But burning something, anything, can be powerfully personal. I have a hard time letting go of books, and I proposed this as a group camping activity because my sense is that, among the geeky people at that campfire, I would not be alone. Sometimes there are books we need to let go, and we have nowhere else to put them.
Throw them on the fire.
Crossposted from Tablesaw! http://ift.tt/1nWvOCz