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book burning

a look into a group of people who burn books for a reason Book burning has usually been associated with horrible events, like the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century when they burned thousands of Jewish and Arabic manuscripts and books. Before the advent of the printing press, burning books was a form of censorship, just as it was during the Inquisition. Recently, it’s been used to provoke religious backlash such as Terry Jones’ infamous Qur’an burning of May 2010, which garnered widespread media attention. Picture a sunny afternoon in late September. Queen’s Park is crowded with avid readers and book-lovers attending Word on the Street, a festival celebrating books and authors. 26-year-old Noah Gataveckas stands on top of the tiny hill in front of the Equestrian statue, reading out loud his self-written manifesto on why his book club burns books. “We book clubbers- we love books. Do we not?” he reads from his manifesto. “Why oh why are we setting some of them on fire when they’re what we’re about?” Gataveckas and his downtown-based book club of around ten members celebrated their love for books and their book club’s first-year anniversary by burning them at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto island one evening last summer.

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YouTube videos show schoolbooks as popular fuel for fire among Canadian and American high school students after the end of a school year. A video from 2009 shows teenage boys burning The Hardy Boys. They were having their weekly book club/ group therapy meet, when they started wondering how well it would burn. It’s not just the youth who are participating in the trend- young married couples burned Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight book in their backyard as well, as one YouTube video from 2010 shows us. “Oh no, it’s like he never existed,” she read a line flatly from the page. “Bye Edward,” she said nonchalantly and threw the pages into the flames, while her friend laughed. “Way to go! We must go on a crusade to destroy every copy,” one comment reads. “Every last copy must burn. We must save the stupid teenage girls.” Likewise, there are many websites advocating burning books. The Exiled, an online news website, features an article in 2008 on why you should burn your copy of The Great Gatsby (mainly because of the rich “drama queens” featured in the story). Gataveckas gave his own reasons in his 42page manifesto on why his book club chose to burn books. “In order to keep loving books, we must not

allow ourselves to get too close to them, like a junkie chasing the perfect high, who risks overdose with every escalatory hit,” Gataveckas reads. His manifesto cites one reason as “Kill what you love.” It further explains that they love books but also hate them because they take up too much of their time, threatening to interrupt their life projects. “Books lead to better, harder books, in greater numbers, on and on, endlessly,” it states. The manifesto contains reasons like, “Psychological self-significance,” “Your God demands a sacrifice,” “For the purposes of Evil,” and “Just because!” citing countless philosophers along the way such as Slavoj Žižek, Heinrich Heine and Plato. But this is not your typical Oprah book club. They read about 30 books in a year by writers like Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Max Horkheimer. Gataveckas says he reads three to four hours every day just for the book club. Whatever book burning may mean, these book club members actively discuss issues, theories and current events, instead of binging on alcohol, which has become the norm among youth today. Mersiha Gadzo’s favourite book is The Cellist of Sarajevo. No, she would never burn it.

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