50 Shades of Ash – A Book Burning

Fire is so pretty, so why must it be so mean?

As many people know, I have a rather deep fondness for books. As slightly fewer people know, I also have an affinity for fire. Insert slightly maniacal laughter here. The unfortunate part is when those two loves of mine get together and see what happens. It’s never very good.

A little while ago, someone I subscribe to on YouTube made a video where he burned a copy of the book 50 Shades of Grey, reducing it to nothing but a pile of ashes. The responses were rather mixed even from a primarily Shades-hating crowd. And I can’t say I blame anyone; the subject of burning books is a rather heated subject. (Okay, I’m sorry.)

Thoughts of burning books brings to mind the issues of censorship and destruction and ignorance. People in the past who didn’t like people to get too educated would burn books to prevent anyone from reading them — and if people became too educated anyway, they would get burned. One of the most notable historical events combining books and fire was the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, which many people are still angry about (and for good reason, I think). Part of this user’s reasoning for burning the book was that he didn’t want to let anyone else be subjected to its horribleness.

I couldn’t agree with this at all. I think that people can read whatever they want. Tastes are subjective, and even if a book is garbage as some may think it is, someone else reading it isn’t going to stop you from reading what you like to read. But you know what will? Setting books on fire.

Nothing shall penetrate my book fort! Its very walls are made of intelligence; they repel those of closed minds. Its only weakness is the Stephenie Meyer section.

That all said, I can’t help but feel that book burning is an interesting form of protest. If it is used as a method of protest, aimed more at sending a message than preventing people from reading, it can work quite well. Burning things in general sends a powerful message. Campaign posters, flags, books, whatever, they all get attention. So in that I actually have to say that there are certain instances where I believe that burning a book should be fine. The important thing is that book burning not be used for censorship or to try to deprive anyone of reading material. As long as we steer clear of that, go for it.

I do know this is a highly contested point of view, however, so from all the bibliophiles who read this blog (and anyone else) I’m curious about what you think. Is book burning ever okay? Or should it be one of those things that is always off limits? If the latter, how could book burning be avoided considering freedom of speech?

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24 thoughts on “50 Shades of Ash – A Book Burning

  1. I’m reminded of Fahrenheit 451. My worry would be that people would start thinking that if it’s okay to burn one book, it’s okay to burn any other book. I dunno. =x It just seems like a shame to let all those books, regardless of how terrible they are, burn. Besides… wouldn’t burning them make people want to read them more?

  2. Freedom of speech is a concept that only prohibits governmental actors from limiting speech. If you read the First Amendment, for example, it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” So in the case of a citizen or even a group of citizens resolving to burn a book or otherwise destroy a book (that does not involve destruction of someone else’s property), I think there is no legal or moral prohibition against it.

    And for sure, I don’t mind throwing out books I dislike. In some respects burning said books would result in much less trash being added to our landfills. As far as the political, social and intellectual issues that arise from lighting up an awful book, well, whatever floats someone’s boat is cool, but I’m too old and too busy to engage in (rather meaningless) acts of protest. I reckon I’d save my energy for something a bit, um, larger?

    Have a good Sunday!

    • That’s a good point. I think a lot of people are against book burning because the concept of setting something on fire is kind of extreme, but when you throw it away you accomplish pretty much the same thing, just in a tamer way.

  3. I don’t know. The ONLY time that I can think of in my past where I wanted to burn a book, was when I finished Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I hated the end of the story so much, because I had invested so much time into it, that I wanted to burn the book so that I could “get back” at it. Still, I resisted because of the fact that it is a book. It now sits on my shelf, safe, though there is always the passing thought of me wanting it’s pages to go up in flames as I watch the ashen bits floating away in a light breeze.

    • Haha, I know what you mean. I think in a case like that I’d rather personally donate the book or something of the sort; I wouldn’t want something I hate that much taking up space on my shelf!

  4. I was caught by the title of your post. I am not the hugest fan of “50 Shades of Grey.” I got about halfway through the first book and was COMPLETELY creeped out. That being said, I have never burned a book. I have, however, thrown books away in lieu of donating them. I don’t know if that is similar to book burning?

    I try to keep my book shelf free of mind clutter. I guess that if another person really wanted to read a book I thought was trash, they could buy it for themselves…

    • I think it’s pretty similar. As mentioned above, burning would probably be more eco-friendly, ha. I’d say donating was the way to go! Though if you can get someone to buy it from you, even better.

  5. I have to agree with Zen A. I never would want to burn a book. No matter how shitty it is. And honey 50 shades is shitty. But that’s what the masses want. Which is unfortunate. I’m all for telling people not to read something because it’s drivel. But I’m not cool with book burning. Reminds me too much of F 451 and the Nazis burning all of the books written by Jewish authors. Or my very own countrymen and women burning books throughout the years. You just don’t do it.

    • Fair enough point! I suppose my view on it is that it isn’t really depriving someone of reading it like mass burnings; as supashmo mentioned, if you already bought it, it’s yours. But I also understand being wary of it considering how it’s been abused in the past.

  6. I believe that if you bought the book, and it’s legally yours, you can do whatever you want to it, including burning. I mean if you just thew it away, what’s the difference? Fire’s simply faster. Still, you can probably sell the thing, but if you really don’t want it spawning, you have the right.
    But burning what is not yours is wrong on many levels, and the mass burning of books is hypocritical. You burn them so they don’t influence people, but by doing so, you are trying to influence what they take in.

    • I like that train of thought, really. If it’s yours, then go for it. If you already own it, then it doesn’t matter what you do (short of making a huge spectacle of it, I suppose). And I’m with you on the second part. If it’s not yours, then it’s a problem, especially if you’re actively trying to silence something.

  7. If someone wants to have a book burning, it is entirely their right to do so as long as the books weren’t stolen. People can burn 50 Shades all day long, and the author won’t have lost money, and the book won’t be out of print. Especially in this digital age. Book burning doesn’t carry the significance it did years ago.

    • That’s also a great point. Books aren’t just print anymore. Ask any government official who’s been spurned by the internet, once something is out there, you can’t ever get rid of it.

  8. Pingback: Should we burn 50 shades of Grey? | men will pause

  9. I’m torn on this topic. I don’t really agree with book burning for all the reasons you already listed, and there is a school of thought that insists any book is better than no book, but can’t help thinking, for the poor souls who think Dan Brown or EL James are the pinnacle of literature, they are better watching TV. But I still couldn’t bring myself to burn them. If the subject matter were a little less contentious, I’d suggest giving them to underprivileged libraries so kids can learn to read, but that would cause a riot. So, having now talked myself into a circle, I can’t disagree with the guy who made the video as a protest.

  10. Pingback: Sights & Sounds – Fahrenheit 451 | LitWits Workshops

  11. Pingback: Fahrenheit 451 | LitWits Workshops

  12. Mr. Repzion.
    I just came here for the image and I had to comment on that, but now that I add that I feel the need to add my thoughts: Book burning is a surefire way of banning books. That came out as a pun, but in the end, I’m not a huge fan of book burning or banning.

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