Friday, November 10, 2006
i burned a book once
I was 9 or 10. I remember it was a solemn ceremony. I believe I was the only one in attendance, my sister will have to confirm if she was or wasn’t there. I felt it was a very dark act, the burning of a book, and it had to be kept secret. My parents couldn’t know about it, they had probably given me the book and would want an explanation. If I had to explain why the book deserved to be destroyed so completely, then destroying it would be pointless. It was a shameful book (in my mind at the time). I can’t remember exactly what made it shameful, probably bad language and perhaps a sexual reference or two. I went to a park far from home, I wanted a place that was anonymous, that I had never been to before and had no reason to go to again. I tested a few matches on it, but got impatient and ripped it apart at the binding a few times, so the pages could burn faster. It was like watching someone be naked, or witnessing a crime. The book was about some girl. All I can remember now is that her being in high school, growing out her armpit hair and wanting to become student council president were major plot elements. I think at first I dealt with the book by blacking out the “bad words”, to protect my little sister from the scandal. I realized, though, that she would read it and know I had indeed read those censored words, and thus sinned. So it had to be burnt. If my sister was indeed present for that book burning, she hadn’t read the offensive material. The experience was thus less charged for her, I guess. I disposed carefully of the ashes afterwards, lest someone should discover my dark deed. I know I read a lot of Nazi books when I was younger, so maybe I connected this in my mind with historical books burnings. I believed in the power of words, and that destroying them was deeply spiritual. Of course, I would give a lot now to re-read that book and find out what so deeply offended me. I have read other books with strong language since, but that is the only book I burnt. I read John Irving and Vonnegut now, so my threshold for sexual references and strong language is pretty high. The only book that has ranked low enough in literary value to deserve a burning, in my opinion, was “The Rising”, but even that one lives on. I believe we donated it to some poor library. Strange that I buried this memory so long. But not strange that burning a book would carry such strong connotations within my book-filled, book-shaped and book-loving childhood.