Sunday, June 17, 2007

Exasperation is a Dish Best Served Reheated...

I don't do many things well. In fact I am mediocre at a number of tasks, though I was told once that I drive really well in reverse. What makes this more pathetic than it might initially sound (as if it doesn't sound pathetic as is) is the person was attempting to delineate the things that I did really well, beginning the list with the above gem and unfortunately ending the list quickly thereafter. So, I am great driver in reverse, there are worse things to...be...good...at, I guess. Humility is something I that I think I am good at, you know, that polite sort of humility that really isn't humility at all but just a general self-effacement intimated to engender a sympathetic response. One thing I am genuinely and authentically humble about is writing. There are many, many, outstanding writers in the world-past, present, and no doubt future-some of them wildly successful and some, unpublished.

Most writers, writers in particular, are generally a humble bunch. Tormented by a language that never serves their emotive or literary purposes, they learn to respect the craft of writing and appreciate the difficulty in producing anything of note. Those artists however, they are an arrogant/tortured group of bastards, look what I can do, I can draw a circle freehand, give me the commission to build your Church. Therefore to meet or even hear about a genuinely arrogant writer is usually an interesting story, since 1) it is pretty rare 2) it is usually humorous, since their arrogance more often than not is genuinely unfounded. One such character is Edward Dahlberg. He believed in the humiliation that is writing, but because of his abrasive individualistic attitude, developed a distaste for the professional community of writers. He was in 1968, listed as one of the ten most neglected writers in the United States. Jonathan Lethem, in the title essay to one of his works, The Disappointment Artist, discusses the bitter existence of Mr. Dahlberg and his Aunt Billie's unfortunate run-in with the man. A recently graduated friend of mine introduced me to this writer and his work, and he happened to pick up a copy of his autobiography, Because I Was Flesh.

There is no better way for me to explain his writing style than to just show you and have you judge for yourselves. If you are intrigued by this passage, and become interested in reading the autobiography-let me suggest that you bring a dictionary, a Bible, and a primer on the last 500 years of Western Culture-just a suggestion.

In this brief passage he is describing the book he is currently writing:

This book is a burden of Tyre in my soul. It is a song of the skin; for I was born incontinent. Everything has been created out of lust, and He who made us lusts no less than flesh, for God and Nature are young and seminal, and rage all day long. I shall sing as Tyre, according to the Prophet Isaiah, like a harlot, and for seventy years.

Pretty freaking intense, eh? Gravely moral,  he is writing sub specie aeternitatis maniacally driven by the pressing weight of his own disappointment. The novel proceeds through his life much in this fashion, exasperating. Though it was a truly worthwhile read, and I gained much from it, the oppressively recondite passages demanding your submission were just too much at times. Dahlberg was a courageous, emboldened writer unafraid of being not understood, despite his deeply wounded psyche, he was not scared of the reading public and their quotidian demands.

This same friend who introduced me to the oeuvre of Dahlberg, showed me a website in which registered members could upload their poetry and have it searched by others. One word: Exasperating. A few more, simplistic, not just simplistic-they exhibited all the mastery of such emotionally complex issues as love, loss, and death as possessed by an elementary school boy. Moreover, versification, rhyme scheme, or rhythm were not terms familiar to these individuals. Perhaps, many of these individuals were in fact elementary school boys and girls, but having looked up a few of our colleagues who we knew to be on this site...sub-par. Poetry is a notoriously difficult literary form to make sound good, or original, or even authentic. Most of the poetry on that site suffered from stifling Harold-Bloomesque influence and horrible diction.

Though there are a number of great writers, many of whom are unpublished there are some authors who manage to get published that, well, one wonders who they had to drug, or sleep with in order to get this through the publishing house unnoticed. One example of such work is a poem I happened to read by Cin Salach. Yeah, that is her name-not protecting the guilty, that is her name. Sexy, kinda! I am unsure why or how I ran into this "poet," but again, Exasperation. I decided to write my previously mentioned friend an e-mail expressing my indignation at this Ms. Salach. Serving this in reheated form, the subsequent e-mail, in my defense, it was written fairly late at night after a long day of which I am a little proud, (by a little I mean a whole lot but again, that whole polite humility thing) by the way I apologize for the cursing but it is a spice in the dish of exasperation which adds a lovely flavor:

The purpose of my filling your inbox today with a message which barely passes as legitimate and which should not be sent to the Junk E-mail folder is a bit of a reminder of a distant episode (queue iconic harp-music indicative of a flashback) when you had introduced me to that website with a lot of really bad poetry. I was recently online, a scant few minutes before sending you this memorandum, and I had run across an Amazon.com “So you want to be…” whose appositional conclusion was “pretentious.” One of the works listed that trained one for the wide-world of pretentious pseudo-intellectual adult male cow feces, was a book of poetry by a Cin Salach called, Looking for a Soft Place to Land. Bad. Very Bad. I suggest you check it out and be encouraged by the fact that despite the saccharine simplicity of this woman’s poesy that she has somehow managed to get published, my only conjecture as to how this could have possibly occurred is that it might have something to do with her bitchin’ name Cin Salach. Perhaps you should change your name to something equally as retro-futuristic with just that hint of medieval Welch or Celtic. Spicy.

To leave you with an epic line from the oeuvre of Ms. Salach, "It is the language of words, and it is unlike anything I have heard with my fingers" now I will give her the benefit of the doubt on this one and suggest that she is either blind and deaf or referring to someone who is so-but that given that concession, YOU CAN’T FREAKIN’ HEAR WITH YOUR FINGERS (this capitalization in case you are unfamiliar with any of my particular idiosyncrasies, means that I am exasperated and serious, but mostly just exasperated). Also, let me suggest that there is something insipidly moronic about the phrase “language of words,” as opposed to what exactly…a language of ├ęclairs. Moreover this Braille-fetished douchebag has apparently heard other things besides a language of words with her fingers; it is just this singularly unique and perhaps even fucking transcendent language of words which is so uncanny in its ability to carry sound THROUGH HER FINGERS (still exasperated). Perhaps if she used her ears, she would recognize that her poetry of words (because that’s how we use words, language, get into it!) sounds like cat urine smells, which by the way if you haven’t had a recent opportunity to smell cat urine, and consider yourself cosmically luckily in that case, cat urine smells bad, like the sulfurous clogged toilets of hell bad. Yeah, no good, no good at all.

So how are you and the kids? Misses doing well? How’s that new job in Duluth treating you? Banging the secretary yet, huh tiger?

XOXO,

Ahmad

P.S. I am tired, and papers do not write themselves. Stupid fucking papers.

Again, I don't do many things particularly well, and I wish I was better at a few things mainly: dealing with women, thesis writing and Guitar Hero II. But I've got driving in reverse, and indignant exasperation, but probably not humility after all.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Walking Alone (Together) In a World of Wounds

Aldo Leopold, an environmentalist and wildlife management advocate, suggested that the  consequence of an "ecological education" is one will live alone in a world of wounds.  This, I read in a book about the current environmental "crisis," and America's role in responding to the changing global environment. Let me add that my placement of the word "crisis" in quotation is to suggest that the definition of crisis usually implies, a decisive point of change wherein a specific action must be taken in order to avert disaster. And there is something about the ambivalence expressed by the current and previous administrations, I include the Clinton and Bush the First administrations in that group-that doesn't seem to resonate with the impeding doom that this book, Red Sky at Morning (see right), suggests with alarming rhetoric and bass drum like consistency. Ignorance to a crisis does not invalidate the crisis' reality, I realize, but it all seems a bit surreal to me-headlong into disaster we are in rapt attention as to the incarceration status of Paris Hilton. It betrays a negligence which cannot easily be rectified.

      Mr. Leopold was probably exclusively referring to an education about the environment. But by "ecological education" I will take more broadly to mean, the type of education which grows in multiple directions, disciplines, and manners, and where these various trajectories of learning all intertwine and develop an 'ecology of consciousness'. The reason I use this definition because it seems more in-line with the type of education we will need to have in order to recognize and act on the coming "crisis." It isn't enough to be aware of the science, or the politics, or the economics of the situation. In order to feel the genuine impact of such a climatic realignment as predicted by some scientists, requires an 'ecology of consciousness', which recognizes and can evaluate from various points of contact what is at stake. A univocal education breeds a narrowness of vision, insufficient to adequately deal with the problems facing our planet. It is too easy to get caught up the facts and figures, climate data, oil prices, and financial statements which leads us to miss the "bigger" picture. However, it is equally seductive to become a hyper-idealist, head up in the sky, lamenting the loss of this species, the destruction of this lake, engaging in saccharine discourse about a bright summer's day, flagellation about what future generations will think of us and how we will be judged. There are important, difficult decisions that will have to take into account not only the environmental impact, but the current geo-political situation at work today.

     Some might protest that the concern with issues akin to inflation, infrastructure, political expediency,the dictates of the free market when our planet is on the brink, is unfounded. Indeed, some demand that our operating principle be that all other concerns are secondary to the impeding environmental crisis. Is your heart so pure, is your will so strong, to believe that such a principle can operate in the harsh realities of nation-state politics. Such a lofty ideal should be counted among such other pipe dreams as: the brotherhood of men and women and the eradication of illness. We are not citizens of the world, because citizenship has its privileges which are applied or at least paid for while we are thrown "free of charge" into worldhood.  Countries have competing interests, individuals and the state have competing interests, corporations have competing interests. Good, bad or indifferent,  in that competition the environment, social justice, and peace lie in the balance.

     Those who have developed an ecology of consciousness can more effectively deal with these problems in a world where moral imperatives unencumbered by pesky realities do not exist. However, it is as Leopold suggests a very lonely road. There are too many that fall by the wayside, too many that do not appreciate one subtlety or another and must be dragged along, those brave few who walk among the ruins are forced to pick up the pieces, because they know no one else will.

    Leopold despite being a life-long hunter and fisherman, or perhaps because he was those things, believed strongly that humanity has a deep desire to be with nature, a kinship if you will. Throughout most of human history, nature has been a force outside of human control, an entity, a being whose plans or goals were not amenable to our wishes or desires. James Frazer, Edward Tylor,  and other early examiners of 'primitive' cultures offered that the primary motivation for the development of religion was an attempt to mediate, or negotiate with nature. I think one of the most significant obstacles in convincing people that we must be the progenitors of action when it comes to resolving environmental issues is the deeply inculcated, historically reified belief that nature is a force that is to be conceived outside the realm of humanity, lying in opposition to humanity to some degree. The supernatural acts as an intercessor between the natural and the anthropological. Now, if environmentalists are correct-this conception of our relationship to nature has to be fundamentally altered and reconsidered. Now we must conceive of nature as a force that we are capable of manipulating, and more to the point, have already manipulated in potentially disastrous ways. To realign our thoughts in this way in light of such eco-events as Hurricane Katrina, the bird-flu, El Nino, Lovebugs (this is a very annoying and car-besmirching Florida issue) is understandably difficult, nigh impossible perhaps.  It is also the case, at least in terms of global warming, that there are arguments, some good, some not so good, that this is not an accurate picture of our relationship with nature. A number of books recently published by some conservative authors, who contend that despite the verifiability of the warming of the globe, that its cause is not anthropologically traceable, and other explanations such as: climatic cycles, stellar influence, God's wrath (seriously), must be taken into account. Of course, it is hard to trust these sources as their funding comes from places that initially sought to mythologize the global warming situation from the beginning, and now in the light of overwhelming data, must now backtrack to this next line of defense against the eco-alarmists. Though, I take those sources that spell out doom and gloom when it comes to the environment with a B-I-G B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S or A-M-E-R-I-C-A with an equally hard to swallow grain of salt; it seems less and less likely that the current ecological situation can be purely chalked up to normal climatic cycles, or stellar gases- as to God's wrath I cannot speak to, but the way we have been acting lately, I wouldn't be surprised if God was a bit miffed. Again, the whole debate is shrouded in so much political and cultural posturing that is so thick, so impenetrable as to render intelligent discussion as little more than emotivist ejaculations for one side or the other, like a Celtic-Ranger football game or the debate regarding a meta-ethical theory based on a Humean non-cognitivist program (those can be bloodily brutal, and the football games can get rough too).

     To invoke a Rortian-type query, requiescat in pace: Why is conservation something that must be argued to, why can we not for the sake of solidarity and care take it on principle that the Earth should be taken care of, not in lieu of or the negligent omission of the current economic, socio-political realities that will affect any proposed solution, but that without argument we begin from the premise that there is something good ipso facto about conservation. How we get there is a decidedly different story, I imagine but if the sky is falling then foolhardiness in the face of destruction is equally as dangerous as unreflectively swallowing the hysterical claims of all Chicken Littles that come before us.

    On a decidedly separate note, enduring a world full of wounds, and by wounds I mean not only the ones we inflict on the planet, but the ones that individuals inflict on others is a phenomenon which pleads for companionship. One item I have come to realize that the benefit of walking the wounded world with someone you care about, can be its own Salvific Doloris. A precious suffering born out of our conditional existence. As we float on from distraction to distraction painfully aware of our vulgar being, it is comforting to know that born from a biological desire to copulate that the possibility for transcendence is available. Though most of us choose to ignore that deep responsibility and opt for the instant gratification; that for those who feel deeply it is possible occasionally to step fully into that which makes us human versus simply abounding in that which makes us animals.

Friday, June 08, 2007

ManDate...

The urban dictionary defines a man-date as two men engaging in "normal" male-female dating rituals. The standard dinner and movie scenario. The picture to my left is an oft attached image of man-dating, two ostensibly heterosexual men holding hands and walking through a garden. Interestingly enough both men in their own way are the representatives of two hyper-masculine societies, which makes this little scene all the more jarring. There is a strange set of rituals involved in man-dating, and though a majority of heterosexual men have performed this ritual at least one time in their life, there are some unwritten procedures to the whole sordid process. Lest you think that this particular introspective arc is a bit strange, please consider the New York Times article, which takes up the same issue. What makes a man date, a "man date," depends on such factors as: venue, dress, purpose, seating arrangement and items consumed (for example, going to watch a romantic comedy versus 300, which if you haven't seen yet is the opposite of a romantic comedy). So, if two men are at a bar watching the game-not a man date. This is so for the following reasons:

1) When one is on a romantic date, each person on the date is responsible in large part for the other's amusement
Therefore in situations where the source of amusement is derived from somewhere outside the locus of the two individuals, then it is no longer a "date." This is the sort of adult male equivalent of playing-in-the-sandbox. Yeah, you're both there, and sometimes you share the dump-truck with your pal, but you guys aren't "playing" with each other, but just playing "together." In man-world we are just watching the game, rooting for the local sports team in general proximity to one another.

2) Usually at a bar, you are eating bar food and drinking beer/liquor--man food! Wings, burgers, fries, nachos, etc. If two men are at a sit down restaurant drinking wine, eating salads and other non-steak dishes, "man-date" is in effect.

The essential qualities of a man date require that if one of the individuals were replaced by a woman that the scene would be indistinguishable from a "regular date." Allow me to apologize at this point for the inherently heterosexist speaking position from which I am engaging in this discourse. Our language is fairly cumbersome in attempting to gracefully articulate "non-traditional" relationships, and in order to expedite the analysis I am forced into these horribly exclusive locutions. If indeed the placement of a woman in such a situation makes it indistinguishable from a normal date, then it is possible that any distinction made is a false one, i.e. they're gay. Though women have gone out together in this way for many years with minimal potential misidentification as lesbian, men engaged in such activities where the purpose is not obvious, i.e. sports, business, or getting wasted, then this ambiguity tends to raise suspicions regarding the men's sexual orientation. I believe this is because, men are supposed to be paragons of efficiency and practicality. Men just don't do things for the sake of doing them, e.g. men don't just call to say "hi" (I don't do this, and I don't see why calling to say "hi" to anyone is ever done, some enlightened male or situationally aware female will have to explain this strange and seemingly gratuitously unnecessary phenomenon). If a man is on a date with a woman, or so the stereotype goes, then either he is a)trying to sleep with her, b) already sleeping with her and trying to get her to do more interesting things sexually, c) they are married, and it is their anniversary, or d) he screwed up and is trying desperately to resolve the situation. Therefore, if two men are not clearly on a business, sports, or an alcohol focused engagement then the default switch is set to "trying to get laid."

Male intimacy is a difficult topic for most individuals to articulate fully. For men, the interactions are most robustly experienced when there is some mediating "exchange" that interpolates between the two agents. Whether it is football, or shop-talk, the activity of bonding occurs as an epiphenomenon to the task at hand. "Hanging out," just to hang out, is as the kids say "freaking gay." As the humorously yet disturbingly strange "bro-rape" videos on YouTube illustrate, such a situation tends to raise suspicions. In an article I read for a class on the Philosophy of Love and Sex, the notion that men develop their "fifth set of essential friends," when they, for example, move to a different city, or start a new job, is a common behavioral trope which is destructive to male intimacy. Men use friends as boys use toys in the sandbox, important and fun while they are playing together, but when they come home, they take a shower and clean off all the sand. While women, the article suggests, are more likely to develop fewer yet longer lasting relationships with friends across the various periods in their life. A woman is much more likely to meet an old friend from high school for dinner, even though she has already been to college, and has worked two different jobs. While the article implies that a man will more likely hang out with all of his current work buddies from Tuesday to Saturday nights at the local sports bar with little regard for the sets of relationship he has compiled in the past. One of the many consequences of homosexuality is that it further makes ambiguous the supposedly clear lines of demarcation of male and female behavior, this consequence is one that plagues various spheres of political and cultural landscape-though it should be noted that such lines have, for the most part, always been blurred, i.e. the man date. At the recent Republican Presidential debate, when Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates if any of them thought it would be acceptable for openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces...crickets.

This last issue is definitely for another time, but just remember if you are on a man-date, keep this simple rule in mind:

Do not, I repeat, do not share the dessert. You are just asking for trouble, or at least questions-which is trouble enough.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Books and the Fires that Love: A Hate Story

A local owner of a Kansas City, Missouri bookstore, Tom Wayne, decided to burn some of his inventory to protest the declining status of the printed word in the United States. Wayne, the owner of Prospero Books, determined that an unread book might as well be burned. A number of local readers were able to save a number of volumes before the burning commenced, getting some great deals on books-bringing old meaning to the term "fire sale," to be sure. One immediately might suggest that despite the declining readership in KC, it might be possible to have the books transferred to another library, or an under-funded school (I hear there are a few of those). Mr. Wayne claims that those outlets were explored and they were not particularly efficacious in moving his inventory. As a result a 45 minute burning commenced until law enforcement asked him to put it out, since he did not have a permit to burn outside. At first this seemed a bit of a strange and disconcerting inversion of the "book burning" trope that is prevalent in some literature. In the case of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, the government is the sponsor of this literary-terrorism, while the general populace is anesthetized by the hyper-decadent anti-utopia found in Bradbury's 24th century America. The symbolism of book burning is a powerful and often devastating one, signifying horrible portents of mind-crushing oppression and tyrannical political coercion, envisioned in the nightmares of intellectuals, SF writers, and the patrons of the humanities. As Franz Boaz notes, "[the] banning and burning of books is the symbol of tyranny's fear of the power of the free-mind."

There is a particular wantonness associated with book burning that makes it a notably gruesome act of destruction, and more than that; it is, I think, ultimately an act of annihilation. Heinrich Heine a German poet of the 19th century predicts the conflagration that would, a century later, consume his work, his country, and the world when he declared, "When they burn books, they, in the end, will burn human beings too." The burning of "degenerate" books on May 10th, 1933, in Opernplatz and throughout Germany were according to the authorities and the Hitler Youth, Feuerspruche, "fire speech" whose hot breath would eradicate the "un-German" spirit that Jewish and other degenerate literature supposedly encouraged. Stephen Vincent Benet's radio play, "They Burned the Books," originally written for the Council on Books in Wartime and the Writers' War Board, organizations created by FDR to provide "weapons in war of ideas," was performed on the 9th anniversary of the book burning in order to remind Americans of consequences of hate and intolerance. The banning and burning of books has had a long history, and that history, as it is told, has demarcated this act as taboo for civilized society, an act of barbarism-a sign of end times for a civilization or society. In the movie, The Day after Tomorrow, the survivors from a massive tsunami-blizzard-hurricane of death-frost in NYC are trapped in the New York Public Library. In order to stay warm, they are forced to burn books, though most are at least somewhat reticent to burn books, one character in particular refuses to have a copy of the Gutenberg Bible burned, suggesting that if humanity is to perish in this "climate readjustment" then something must be left of its contribution. This history makes Wayne's protest all the more interesting, an obvious bibliophile feels he is forced to commit the most egregious of intellectual taboos (even more egregious than plagiarism) in order to encourage the condition which his very act nullifies. What is the purpose of burning books for the book-burner who wants people to see the truth about books and reading?

For the book-burner, perhaps there is a purifying aspect, both a revealing and simplifying of truth. In the life of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order, a story is related of the Miracle at Fanjeaux. During a disputation between the Catholics and the Cathars (Albigensians), a trial was held in order to determine whose beliefs were correct. St. Dominic was the representative of the Church, and despite his clearly superior argumentation, as the story goes, the jury was unwilling to grant Dominic a clear victory. As a result, a second trial was held, a trial by fire. The arguments of the Cathars along with the papers of St. Dominic were thrown into a fire, the documents which remained intact would be the true ones. Despite being subjected three times to the revealing fire, the arguments of St. Dominic remained intact and therefore miraculously established as Truth. The painting to the left by Pedro Berruguete, The Burning of the Books or St. Dominic and the Albigensians, depicts the scene with the saint's documents remaining intact, eventually a Crusade was carried out against the Cathars and they were all but destroyed a few decades later.

The simplifying fire in Bradbury's novel is overseen by Captain Beatty, the paradoxical fire-captain, whose knowledge of literature is only outstripped by his hatred of reading (or perhaps readers), recognizes the chaos that books can bring. In a world where order is stringently enforced, and where absolutes are the only commodities, one (mis/well-)placed book can transform its reader into a revolutionary, a saint, or a suicide. Goethe tells us that it is dangerous to turn poetry into the truth of one's life. Good advice since it is his, Sorrows of Young Werther, which caused multiple copycat suicides in Germany after its publication. Beatty in his dream, notes the furious debate that occurs because of books, a debate that must be silenced through cold, technical reason. Though I think the character of Beatty is ultimately not the ironic, or sarcastic one that one might assume he is supposed to represent, ultimately I believe Beatty is a genuinely tragic character, a character who within his own mastery of the techniques of manipulation sees the seeds of destruction of his society. He explains to Montag:

“Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."
"That way lies melancholy," for the fire-captain it is this untenable melancholy which must be eradicated if absolute order is to be maintained. The melancholy of thought is replaced with the satiety of data-aggregation, and as Hitler offers it is this satiety which is most fortuitous for those in power when he says, "How fortunate for governments that the people they administer do not think." When Montag escapes to the forest and meets the vagabond book-lovers, he is informed by Granger, thede facto leader of the forest-dwellers that they memorize the books and maintain their record in oral memory until such time that books will be accepted again. They then, in order to escape detection, burn the book themselves.

Can we then understand that local bookstore owner as one of these refugees, burning books in order to save them?

A common theme throughout Fahrenheit 451is the symbol of the phoenix, the mythical-bird that dies in a ball of flame and rises from its ashes again. Books do not die easily, or more to the point, ideas like those in books are, as V from V for Vendetta informs us "bulletproof," and hopefully also flame-retardant. Even if a book is burned the ideas therein that were destroyed will rise again to potentially burn its incinerator. Or so we hope. The act of reading is an act of quiet ambiguity, unlike TV, or radio, or newspapers, and to a lesser degree the Internet, what is read by flashlight under the covers or in some corner of the library cannot so easily be monitored or overheard by inquisitive ears, and therefore not so easily be controlled. It is this ambiguity that the fires that burn books seek to destroy, in this act of purification nothing is spared (St. Dominic and his documents aside), whether Tom Wayne or an SS solider is performing the act, something is lost-something special. Perhaps it will be regained anew, but perhaps not. We do a disservice, I would hold, to the creative spirit, when we seek to burn books. Not because, we cannot possibly get them back in the future, but because in doing so we give up the present. The phoenix will return, but its ashes are now gone, and with it the hope that the current society can improve. If we must be sacrificed by fire, at least let it not be by our own hands...

Narrator:
A book is a book. It's paper, ink and print.
If you stab it, it won't bleed.
If you beat it, it won't bruise.
if you burn it, it won't scream.

[Crackle of Flames]

Burn a few books-burn a hundred-burn a million
What difference does that make?

Voice of Schiller:
It does to me.
-"They Burned the Books," (1942)
Stephen Vincent Benet