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.�"


There shouldn't be so much controversy over this event. Shaun Bythell is burning those books for the same reason the government burns money and flags. This is not part of a hate rally with books being burned in ignorance by a pack or raving lunatic reactionaries. Yet, it was pretty much misrepresented as such in one of the articles about it.

While there are those of us who hold all books with a nearly fanatical level of respect, there are those who think of books as no more than door stops. The owner of the shop is mearly giving the books that weren't taken care of, won't sell and aren't donateable a colorful send off and celebrating Beltaine as well (or is that really the problem?). Being what he is, we can be certain he's not getting rid of any artifacts. Why all the clicking of teeth and wailing? Because it's being made public. As he said, they'd be put on the "skip" otherwise. Why is it more appealing to have books with piles of rotting garbage placed upon them instead of burned for a good reason? Yes, book burning has a horrible history but this is not a hate burning.