Book-burning event in Scotland ignites controversy

Kathleen writes “The public bonfire of old and unread books in Scotland’s national book town,Wigtown, will be a vast funeral pyre of books to be lit today, marking the Celtic festival of Beltane.
The event, billed as the Beltane Book Burning, is the idea of Shaun Bythell, who owns The Bookshop
, Scotland’s largest second-hand bookstore. He agreed that the idea is a controversial one. “It certainly seems to polarise people. The reaction is either, ‘that’s a brilliant idea’, or ‘you will burn in hell’.�

The books destined for the fire are mass-produced artefacts – their contents will not disappear when they burn. If the objectors’ point is that books symbolise free speech, why are they not then sentimental about using newspapers as firelighters or fish and chip wrappings? There is also a practical problem: what do you do with unwanted books? They can be sent to the developing world – but how many Kenyan schoolchildren will really benefit from the works of Galsworthy? Does it justify the aviation fuel?

As the poet Joseph Brodsky observed: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.â€?”