Other People's Thoughts

Sunday, July 13, 2008
From today's Post Secret, two secrets that intrigued me:
I can see that, I thought, loving words on a written page so much, that you would want them to somehow be part of you. I think I'd go for memorizing, but I could see how someone might want something more tangible. But, then I imagine eating a whole page of a book. It's dry -- I remember a bizarre habit of chewing loose leaf paper that kept me distracted during part of fifth grade. Does the secret writer wash his books down with water or a better reading companion? Hot chocolate? Wine? And then the thoughts changed to confusion. But then, if the book is eaten, the last page gone, you cannot lend it to anyone else except in some cruel joke. And what if the secret writer wants to read that wonderful book again? Perhaps, I thought, the secret writer eats only the blank pages in the back. But then, what would be the point?

This one, I understood from my own wind instrument methods books. Scales can drive even the most methodical, organized person to arson after one-too-many times. But, what made me nervous were the comments that followed.

"I'm an English major, and the most liberating thing I've done is burn a copy of Charles Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities""

First, I thought, wow. That book would burn for a while, and then my brain looped back and I realized we are talking about burning books. I understand that neither of these people did it out of a base hate, but it still scares me, still evokes Heinrich Heine's warning that is stencilled above photos of the Nazis burning books in whatever Holocaust museum visit: "When one burns books, one will soon burn people."

It took my years to realize it was OK not to finish a book if I found it boring. And even those books get to sit on my shelf. Surely, there are books that I find repulsive, whose ideas chill me, but I can't shake the belief that the cure for hurtful speech is more speech.

I think there is also an element of Judaism that is so deeply ingrained. It's not just the histories of book burning, it's the belief that text itself has value. That there is religious observance in studying it, that there should be real reverence paid to the ink on paper itself. While the actual religous rules apply only to specific texts, I am shaped by growing up in a house full of books--both Jewish and secular.

1 Response to 'Other People's Thoughts'

  1. http://writtenpyramids.blogspot.com/2008/07/other-peoples-thoughts.html?showComment=1216382700000#c3200062142995191637'> July 18, 2008 at 8:05 AM

    That is an interesting take on the clarinet page burning. I was going to say that I'm surprised you discussed book burning without mentioning "Fahrenheit 451", but I remembered book burning, or the concept and symbolism of, is bigger than that novel.


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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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