Herewith a brilliant, provocative, obstreperous essay outlining ten reasons why we should burn books. Yes, yes, this seems vaguely counter-intuitive, Numéro Cinq being a literary magazine and all. But two things need to be said at the outset. First, book burning and books, together, have always been the signal marks of an emerging modernity. They co-exist as sign and substance of the new. This is why, of course, there is a book burning in Don Quixote; Cervantes had his finger on the pulse. In my book The Enamoured Knight, I make a side argument that, in fact, book burning is one of a “basket” of themes that supply the discourse of the novel as a form. And, second, inversion is perhaps the most elegant of rhetorical devices; instead of arguing (tediously and correctly) for the right, you take the opposite view and find occasions for wit, comedy, and trenchant critical thought. In this case, our author, Noah Gataveckas, uses inversion, his own wide reading, and a radical logic born of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek to mine the contemporary chaos of our late literate age and say very smart and inflammatory things (which is the point, right?).
Noah was born in Oakville, Ontario, in 1985, and educated at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. After moving to Toronto to work as a DJ in the entertainment district, he rediscovered his love of reading and writing. He is the author of poetry (“Silence”, “The King of the River”), journalism (“Hijacked: The Posthumous Reinscription of a Socialist in Canadian Consciousness”, “Digital Theft in a Digital World”), polemic (“Why Occupy? An Approach to Finance Capital”), theatre (Five Star), and a book-in-progress entitled Symposium: A Philosophical Mash-up. He lives and works in Toronto.
Why do we burn books? or,
The burning question of our movement
By Noah R. Gataveckas
The “we” in question refers specifically to the Angry Young Readers Anonymous (AYRA) book club. You know who you are; you know what’s at stake. In order to commemorate our one-year anniversary of successful self-pedagogy, we have dared to consider the inconsiderate: a quaint little book burning, with drinks and snacks being served around 8. This has – understandably – unnerved some of us. After all, Hitler. Enough said. So, to help us understand why we are doing this, I have prepared a list of ten possible reasons why one might justifiably “commit it then to the flames”, as David Hume once put it. Be aware that they are inconsistent: that is, at least one reason presumes some form of spirituality (3), while others are specifically atheistic (4 and 7), and so on. We don’t need to have the same reasons; de gustibus non est disputandum. This is just a compendium of some of the answers that have been given over the years to explain why some books got fired.
(1) Kill what you love.
We bookclubers—we love books. Do we not? Why oh why are we setting (some of) them on fire when they’re what we’re about?
After all, we more than most people should see their value: think of the many excellent texts that we’ve had a chance to read and discuss this past year, and how these readings and conversations have enriched our lives. Starting with Findley’s The Wars, including Horkheimer and Adorno, Žižek, “Junkspace”, Reality Hunger, Chinua Achebe, To the Lighthouse, Baudrillard, Ondaatje, “The World as Phantom and as Matrix”, Serge Guilbaut, “Politics and the English Language”, The Wretched of the Earth, Melville, The Master and Margarita, Chekhov, Dylan Thomas, Octavio Paz, McLuhan, and so many other texts that I can’t even remember, we’ve learned a hell of a lot this year from books.
Furthermore, they have provided us with the grounds for having excellent conversations. We have applied Marxist, Freudian, Lacanian, Žižekian, etc., theories to them in our efforts to maximize our minds. Note that theories apply to their texts like bees to blossoms: once pollinated, they bloom with mucho meanings, full of information and insight. This literary entomophily has rewarded us, nudging us ever closer to Enlightenment.
So how can we turn our backs on them now? They’ve been so generous to us in the past. Why oh why burn books?
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