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April 22, 2005

Book-burning idiots
Posted by Teresa at 10:31 AM * 60 comments

A couple of appallingly stupid ethnic separatist groups in Manipur have burned a library that contained many of their most ancient texts. From BBC News:

Officials of a prestigious library in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur say nearly 145,000 books have been destroyed in an arson attack.

Protesters demanding the introduction of Manipur’s ancient Mayek script set fire to the Central Library in Manipur’s capital Imphal on Wednesday. Officials say many of Manipur’s most ancient texts were among the books destroyed by the fire.

The arsonists want the Mayek script to replace Bengali script in the state. …

Police say that a group of nearly 50 protesters started the fire. They say they came from two groups.

The first is a regional group, Mayek Erol Evek Loinasillon Apunba Lup (Meelal)—or the United Forum for Safeguarding Manipuri Script and Language. For several months it has been demanding the introduction of Manipur’s ancient Mayek script, and the abolition of Bengali script that has been used for the last three centuries to write the Meitei language.

The second organisation is a separatist rebel group, Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), which has called for a week’s strike in support of the Meelal’s demands. …

Earlier this month, Manipur’s vernacular newspaper editors agreed to print their broadsheets in both Bengali and Mayek scripts under pressure from Meelal and groups supporting them. But the state government insists that it will only introduce Mayek gradually, because its sudden introduction could cause problems for a generation of Manipuris who are not familiar with the ancient script.

Analysts say that has upset Meelal and groups like the KCP. They say the library was burnt because almost all Manipuri books preserved in it were written in Bengali script.
Brilliant. Nothing like burning your own Ur-texts to help preserve your language and culture.

Literature is an infinitely cooperative undertaking. The same goes for libraries. It’s the continuous work of centuries to preserve texts. And all it takes is one dimwit with a Bic to destroy them. (Via Jeremy Osner, via Languagehat.)

Comments on Book-burning idiots:
#1 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:21 PM:

Walt Kelly wrote the back jacket copy for one of his books that we didn't have -- I think it was The Pogo Papers -- with a cheery, archaic-sounding invitation to the reader to put book to flambeau and spread the merry flames of brotherhood, or some such. Some of his most chilling words, actually, along with "the deadly, who we thought were dead / stand waiting, every one" (which has been going through my head since some time in 2000).

#2 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Hitler thought books were important enough to burn. That puts him a step ahead of Emperor George W. Bush.

#3 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:47 PM:

When I think about what kind of crimes I think the death penalty should be used for...well, I still say it shouldn't. But this comes closer than the murder of a mere human being.

#4 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:59 PM:

Xopher: "bibliocide?"

#5 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Xopher, JvP: "Buchmord?"

#6 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:13 PM:

JvP, Andy: Buchverbrennungskulturellselbstmord?

#7 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:22 PM:

is it just me or has anyone else noticed a marked increase in book burning/banning in recent years? Jenna Crispin at Bookslut, along with other cites I visit frequently, have some sort of banning or burning report every other week or so.

Maybe it's always been this frequent, and I'm simply noticing more, what with internet access and a personal stake in the state of libraries and literature.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:33 PM:

There you go with the "selbstmord" again, Christopher, when you're the one who taught me that word in the first place.

#9 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:06 PM:

Well, when you're sui generis, isn't suicide also genocide?

It's not my VERY favorite word. That's still 'pathomnemonic'.

#10 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Ok, Xopher, spill: what does 'pathomnemonic' mean? Bad memory?

#11 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:38 PM:

The idea of burning any library is making me wibble. How were they planning on translating the texts to their own language if they've gone and burnt them all?

(I got my new San Francisco library card on Wednesday!)

While I disagree with Xopher's hyberbole (mere human being? this mere human being flinches even though she realises the words were used for effect) I feel as well that there should be a special crime classification for this sort of thing. Arson just doesn't cover it. We're talking about the destruction of the literary posterity of thousands of long-dead folks. Irreplaceable.

When I was little, some of my worst nightmares and paranoias dealt with fire. I used to pray to Heavenly Father every night that he wouldn't let the house burn down. (I had this uneasy conviction that if I forgot my prayers, he would punish me in this manner.) And then I would go to sleep and dream about my parent's house burning down and me pitching all my favourite books from our library out through the windows until the fire got too high. There was this horrible moment of indecision every time I turned back from the window--save more books, and if so, which ones, and where were they on the shelves? And eventually, I'd have to jump, knowing that the rest of my books were going up in flames. And not just my books but all my childhood art and writing. The personal mythology of my own little world--gone, poof.

(Now I just live in fear of hard drive corruption.)

#12 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:58 PM:

Wasn't there a horrible library fire (accidental) in Germany last year? I seem to remember something about a bible that belonged to Martin Luther and a bunch of Goethe manuscripts being lost.

I remember seeing the footage and feeling queasy.

One thing that western libraries have going for them is parallelism. While specific volumes (and marginalia) may be lost, seldom is the only copy of an important work lost.

I hope the people in Manipur believed in making copies, whatever script their texts may have been in.

There are few acts that make me want to label people, but burning a library makes me want to call the perpetrators something between savages and barbarians.

#13 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Pixelfish - BTW, try to get yourself a Peninsula Library System card as well - if you can get down there you'll find that they have a circulating collection that's an order of magnitude better than what SF has. After all, it was SF that "updated" its collection by throwing most of it away.

#14 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 03:12 PM:

Andy: evoking thoughts of a particular pathology. Whoa, I just looked it up and it's actually 'pathognomonic' -- characteristic or symptomatic of a particular disease or condition...live and learn! I first heard it when a friend told me I should be sure to tell my neurologist the story about my 5th grade teacher taping me into my chair, on the grounds that the story was pathognomonic for ADHD. This shows that among professionals (my friend is a Psy.D.) the term is used more loosely than the dictionary definition might suggest.

PixelFish: I actually do believe that the deliberate destruction of ancient and irreplaceable cultural artifacts, especially on a large scale, is a worse crime than the killing of a single human being. It blights the lot of all humans to a greater degree. Both are reprehensible, of course, and way beyond the pale. Does it matter if it's the Moon or Mars, if it's out of your own reach?

#15 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 03:45 PM:

I wonder how they felt when they realized what they'd done. Are they grieving? That's punishment enough, I think. But my cynical side wonders if they even care; I foresee a wave of "look what you made me do, you deserved it, bitch."

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 03:54 PM:

Yes. It names rather than recalls the disease.

#17 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 04:42 PM:

put book to flambeau and spread the merry flames of brotherhood, or some such.

Come all ye good people
Put book to flambeau
With a snap & a crackle
And ye ho de ho heau


The cover blurb ends with:
"Join ye then, for a trifling sum, with all men of like complexion to gather round the flames which send the long and merrie shadows leaping through the land."

#18 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 04:50 PM:

Larry: Thanks for the tip. :)

Xopher: I get what you are saying now after re-reading. If I get you correctly, you weren't comparing the crime of murder (of any mere human) to the crime of cultural obliteration, but rather pointing out why you think that the death penalty might be in some way justified for such a crime.

#19 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:09 PM:

I was saying that the crime of cultural obliteration tempts me to change my position on the death penalty from the unalterable opposition I have maintained lifelong. Ultimately unsuccessfully tempts, because I don't think the death penalty can be justified by any crime. But it comes closer than single murder.

#20 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:25 PM:

"Darker... Much darker..."
Radical Feminists for Burning Cinderella Dept.

Fairy tales linked to violent relationships

LONDON (AFP) - "Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like 'Cinderella' and 'Beauty and the Beast' are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says."

"A study of both parents of primary school children and women who have been involved in domestic abuse claims than those who grew up reading fairy tales are likely to be more submissive as adults."

"Susan Darker-Smith, a graduate student who wrote the academic paper, said she found many abuse victims identified with characters in famous children's literature and claimed the stories provide 'templates' of dominated women."

In other news, all Science Fiction books are to be burned, as they provide templates for women (especially those in mostly-transparent spacesuits) being dominated by Bug-Eyed Monsters.

Men are from "Mars Needs Women." Women are from "Venus de Milo has no arms."

Andre Dworkin exhumed, cloned, to lead battle against Grimm et al.

#21 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:30 PM:

<hungrysnarky>
Pick up gun. Point at foot. Pull trigger.

Hey, Xopher, books are living things, and one must do penance if one destroys one, right? :-|

I wonder if UNESCO has, somewhere, a list of libraries which count as cultural treasures? If not, time they started one.
</hungrysnarky>

#22 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:39 PM:

[shows Randolph a page of a book with a blank frame on it]

Put your hand there, will you?

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:42 PM:

Well, it's not just idiots in India. Hamilton Library at the U of Hawai'i is still trying to recover from a massive flood which destroyed a helluva lot of possibly irreplaceable material, and now it has an arsonist to combat.

#24 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:45 PM:

JVP, I suspect that there is truth in that study. Tales get handed down because they have power, and if you look at the status of women in history, it pretty much dovetails. I do like finding faery tale retelings for kids that turn the stories around. Gail Carson Levine is one author I really like fo rthat.

#25 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:51 PM:

From Stoppard's Arcadia:

Thomasina: "Oh, Septimus!--can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides--thousands of poems--Aristotle's own library!... How can we sleep for grief?"
...
Septimus: "We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language..."

For a while I thought this was one of those things that are comforting but with a decidedly uncomfortable edge of untruth. But then I read about this, which may already have been mentioned or Particled here at some point:

http://www.mirabilis.ca/archives/002879.html

So it is with a certain amount of real hope that I say Vita brevis, ars longa. Even if there are copies, the loss is still terrible, but not so terrible as it might be.

#26 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:21 PM:

Keith the Invisible Librarian writes:

is it just me or has anyone else noticed a marked increase in book burning/banning in recent years? Jenna Crispin at Bookslut, along with other cites I visit frequently, have some sort of banning or burning report every other week or so.

Maybe it's always been this frequent, and I'm simply noticing more, what with internet access and a personal stake in the state of libraries and literature.

Since Google News began offering e-mail alerts, it has been easy for someone interested in book-burning to learn of any incident reported in the universe of media spidered by Google.

Of course, the pros have had Nexis/Lexis searches available for a long time, but Google has democratized such searches and made them more convenient. Perhaps some of your correspondents are deliberately seeking out book-burnings in order to bring them to your attention.

#27 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:24 PM:

prologue of King Henry V:

"O, for a Muse of fire, that would ascend /
The brightest heaven of invention!"

That's Igni, Muse of Fire, Patron Saint of Arsonists. Cf. Farenheit 451.

#28 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 09:46 PM:

pericat, vielen Dank.

(Feelin' dank? We need a fire! FI-IRE!)

#29 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:03 PM:

Larry, the SFPL "throwing away books" (aka weeding, deselecting, etc) was a PR disaster, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a necessary and healthy thing for the library to do.

Think about it: the vast majority of librarians love books -- that's why they work in libraries! Would they throw a book away if there wasn't some benefit to doing so?

The fact is that books get old, dusty, tattered and torn. (Never mind duplicates or outdated editions.) They take up space that could be used by newer, more useful and more interesting books. Being crammed together increases folding and tearing of the new books too.

If you do have enough space, the old books make the whole collection look old, dingy and uninviting. That means fewer library users, which means less council funding next year for new books.

Old books make it harder to keep the collection tidy or to do a regular stocktake, which means either spending more money on more staff, or accepting that users won't always be able to find the books they want -- again, fewer users, less funding. And no stocktake means you won't know if a ring of book thieves has been targeting your collection. This is not a hypothetical situation; it happened in the library I work in, and we lost an appalling number of truly priceless books.

Returning to San Francisco: my understanding is that previous head librarians had built the collection on the idea of SFPL as a high level research library. That's ambitious, but neither feasible nor appropriate. Kenneth Dowlin pointed this out, and set up the weeding project so the library could house an accessible collection of books the public actually wants.

The way the weeding process and publicity was handled was a shame; the fact that it happened at all was most emphatically not.

(Primary source for the penultimate paragraph: http://www.wmrls.org/services/colldev/weed_it.html. The authoritative text on weeding is Slote, Stanley J. Weeding Library Collections: Library Weeding Methods. 4th ed. ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1997. )

#30 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:43 PM:

Zeborah - fair comment, but when I look at the investment that the city made building the bookless palace, I'd expect more books. And the branch libraries are pitiful. So, IMHO, the SFPL fails at being a research library and at being a popular circulating library.

I guess I got spoiled living in Great Neck, NY, which had a wonderful library. When I moved to SF, I found the SFPL unusable. The Peninsula Library System, on the other hand, runs a great popular collection with just enough research to get a high-schooler through most papers. The community colleges are also in the system, so there's an approximation of a research library available too. The library was one of my favorite things about living in Burlingame.

I just moved to Seattle. Seattle has a magnificent main library, but the popular collections seem a bit thin. Thankfully, I can charge things out of the King County system too, which is marginally better.

#31 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 12:15 AM:

I set foot in the new San Francisco Main once-- once. Stone floor, atrium that leads all the way to the roof of the building, plenty of Special Collections but dang few books. Dewey Decimal System-- NONCONTIGUOUS. That is, half the 500s are one one floor, and half on another-- and no, I don't mean one floor has 500-550 and the other 550-599. A given 5xx might be on one floor, or it might be on the other.

The stone reflects every sound, and the atrium carries it all the way up. As an experiment, I went as deep into the Government Publications section as I could-- and I could still hear the crowd at the bottom.

#32 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 01:10 AM:

Thanks for the word, Xopher. I would have replied earlier, but I had to go to our weekly group meeting, which is essential for those who want to ride the gravy train up the ladder of academic success. (If you miss it, it's a one-way ticket down the greasy pole.)

#33 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 01:50 AM:

Returning to San Francisco: my understanding is that previous head librarians had built the collection on the idea of SFPL as a high level research library. That's ambitious, but neither feasible nor appropriate.

Why isn't it it feasible or appropriate? NY Public Library is a high level research library, no?

#34 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 03:14 AM:

And a personal pet peeve, they got rid of much of the Anthony Boucher collection of science-fiction magazines.

If you're talking about a "high-level research library", these are crucial for certain kinds of research.

But I guess popular fiction isn't "high-level" enough.

#35 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 08:11 AM:

Why isn't it it feasible or appropriate? NY Public Library is a high level research library, no?

All I know of NYPL I've just googled; but apparently yes. I suspect that they get more funds than most New Zealand libraries.

My reasoning, anyway, is that being a public library requires a great deal of breadth: different ages, different interests, different levels of education, different ethnicities and languages, different sight/hearing/motor capabilities.

Whereas being a research library requires a great deal of depth in the specific fields your institution (usually) is interested in.

It's not that these two goals are incompatible; it's that you can't do both without a great deal of money. If you can't do both, I feel it's more appropriate for a public library to go for the breadth than for the depth, because if they don't do the depth then academic and scientific institution libraries will; but if they don't do the breadth, who's going to fill that gap?

OTOH, if you can get the funding to do both, then whee! (Though I feel slightly grumpy about NYPL complaining about a cut in their council funding of a sum of money that I strongly suspect would cover all the expenditure of my city's entire library system. (Excuse excess of prepositions.))

#36 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 09:14 AM:

That said about SFPL, they were the only library I could find locally with the Bibliographia OZiana, as that wonderful research institution UCBerkeley had "deaccessioned" their copy. I needed to look up various obscure points on the states of a couple of Oz books, which happens once a decade or so.

#37 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 10:52 AM:

JVP, I suspect that there is truth in that study. Tales get handed down because they have power, and if you look at the status of women in history, it pretty much dovetails. I do like finding faery tale retelings for kids that turn the stories around. Gail Carson Levine is one author I really like for that.

Mayakda: I'm not sure why you included "For kids" in that. Most retellings or new fairy tales written in this century, if they don't turn the stories around, emphasize entirely different aspects and tend to push for more inner strength.

Although I have to say, there are plenty of old ones that are stronger. I agree that the popular ones "every nursery child knows" seem to be the ones with the limp ladies - a telling point - and the ones with male heroes are quick with the trophy wives, but *some* of those ladies are not lying in bowers waiting for men.

Then again, there are those who emphasize the opposite of that study. Isn't it Terri Windling, the loudest advocate for rewritten fairy tales with darker and stronger characters, who talks about how the stories got her through abuse?

#38 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 12:25 PM:

Lenora Rose:

Exactly. Terri Windling's fiction and anthologies of that ilk are very strong, with good storytelling. evocative use of language, and deep analysis of genre and power issues.

"Terri Windling is a writer, editor, artist, and passionate advocate of fantasy literature. She has won six World Fantasy awards for her editorial work and the Mythopoeic Award for her novel The Wood Wife. She has edited over thirty anthologies, many in collaboration with Ellen Datlow--including the Snow White, Blood Red adult fairy-tale series, The Armless Maiden, Sirens, The Green Man, and Swan Sister. She has also written children's books and articles on myth and folklore, and she edits the Endicott Studio Online Journal of Mythic Arts website. She divides her time between homes in Devon, England, and Tucson, Arizona."

#39 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 02:32 PM:

> I just moved to Seattle. Seattle has a magnificent
> main library, but the popular collections seem a
> bit thin. Thankfully, I can charge things out of
> the King County system too, which is marginally
> better.

Larry, welcome to Seattle. The downtown library is indeed a wonder. Here's a slide show of the new main branch for anyone who hasn't read last year's articles about the building. I especially like slide 14.

I find the selection of sf/f at the main branch to be pretty thin. But all the branches taken together have a surprisingly wide-ranging selection, including four titles by one John M. Ford. I prefer to place holds on the books through the online catalog. They shelve the book at my local branch and I pick it up anytime I want.

It's a great library system.

#40 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 04:13 PM:

JvP: (1) I have to agree with mayakda. "Classic romantic fairy tales" != Terri Windling. (2) Have you actually read Andrea Dworkin's work, or just the things her enemies claimed she said?

#41 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:09 PM:

Grimm didn't just collect fairy tales, they edited them according to their own prejudices, and probably slipped in some originals. Italo Calvino has a great collection of Italian folk tales, and snuck in one original which he challenges the readers to uncover. I did read a little Andrea Dworkin, and as I said previously, greatly respected her position, but was uncomfortable with her conclusions. I also see a lot of these painful truths in William T. Vollmann, circling back again and again to the subjects of prostitutes, drugs, and violence.

Fairy Tales are certainly ABOUT something important, regardless of who promulgates them for what agenda, with what side-effects. See also "The Uses of Enchantment: Meaning in Fairy Tales" by Bruno Bettelheim.

The connection between Fairy Tales and Fantasy & Science Fiction is complicated. See also the delightful: "Once Upon a Galaxy" edited by Wil McCarthy, Martin H. Greenberg, John Helfers [Daw, 3 Sep 2002].

#42 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Well, if that's your complaint, Occam's Razor suggests that the reporter oversimplified, rather than the grad student failing to identify what she meant.

#43 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:27 PM:

The Merrimack Valley Library Consortium has the absolute WORST library indexing interface I have ever seen or been angered at trying to use. The worst. I want to track down book information. It is the worst crap software for doing so I have EVER seen, and I was completely and utterly frustrated at the level of MORON it was aimed at, someone who probably makes the folks who go into a bookstore asking for "the book with the red cover" look like High Intelligence Lifeforms....


http://www.mvlc.org

The librarians don't use it. I remain infuriated that my tax dollars went to the utter abomination, and that someone was PAID for the abomination. I really really REALLY want whoever was responsible for it FIRED, and moved to Bangalore to ruin THEIR software industry and products! It's designed for entities somewhat stupider and less able to multitask that planaria....

I would have been angry at it when I was a five year old, I suspect, it makes looking through old card catalogue physical cards dumped randomly on the floor trying to look up books, be reasonable in comparison!

====================

The yahoo article at

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1540&ncid=1540&e=2&u=/afp/20050422/sc_afp/sciencebritainwomen_050422114707

pointed out, as others noted above, that it's "classic romantic fairy tales" which seem to carry a predisposition with them to make girls act like victim/passive heroine abused doormats.

But then, a lot of cultures want that... There are pressure groups which scream about textbooks which depict women in any role except housewife, and since they're active in Texas and Texas does volume state-wide designation of textbooks for the entire state and it is the second most populus state in the USA, what Texas specifies becomes what's available from the publishers Texas orders from, and what Texas rejects, tends to either not get published, or gets rewritten for publication to comply with the Texas school text pressure groups.

Cultural myths can have very deliberate construction--the Tanakh seems to have been very deliberated sculpted in its words into the form it's been frozen into for a couple millennia now, and the material that went into it, had more decades and centuries of massaging before then.

The way a story is told, the words used, the terms... all convey both denotation and connotation. Lawyers are in ways word specialists, trained to write and interpret texts to attempt to be as specific and unambiguous as possible when writing what they intend to be honest contracts, and using weasel wording and obfuscatory terminology when writing material where the letter of the law is such as to avoid some spirit or other.

Word pattern, text rhythm, syllabification, the very sound of the words and sequencing of them, all play into a text. Names matter. "Little Red Riding Hood" conveys a visual image and associations with that image. There are connotations and denotations that can get lost--when I was a child "riding hood" didn't denote to me what someone from a society where people use horses for personal transportation might get from the story--"red" and "hood" meant something to me, but the dimension involved with "riding" was just completely absent... it's an information encoding that failed to convey information to me, it was like most names not something that carried relevant meaning to me.

Anyway, traditional fairy tales, -teach-. Don't go out into the forest, something will -eat- you. Redemption from a Rotten Home Life comes not from running away and finding another home, but from magic and having the prince fall in love with you and marry you. Be feminine and use wiles. Girlt's lives growing up are wretched but if you're a girl fall in with the program anyway... and get rescued through Marriage.

Different societies have different children's stories. Medieval Europe probably had lots of stories encouraging girls to become nuns, and boys to become monks or priests.

Then there are other myths... Scott's Lawn Care products, buy grass seed, buy their pesticide and herbicide-laden grass fertilizer, and hate "weeds" -- most of which are non-native deliberately imported plants brought over for use as food and/or medicine.

I go into supermarkets and see little six ounce packaged of raspberries with pricetags reading $3.99 or more, and wonder at the value system where people spend enormous amounts of time and effort and money eradicating any hint raspberry canes in their yards, which could provide them tasty fresh raspberries sweeter and fresher than store bought ones, for either an initial investment of buying a plant for a bit more than a six ounce package of raspberried and planting it, or of not mowing down volunteers that appear from visits by birds.

So much of it in social internalized values about Appropriate and Correct.

#44 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:29 PM:

I have more SF/F titles than our library system does. This is kind of a problem because the SF discussion group is supposed to only read things that are in the library. We've decided to read three things that aren't, by getting them used and donating them to the library, so *technically* they belong to the library even if the library will just give them to the Friends to sell after our discussion. So far I have:

4 Bimbos of the Death Sun
2 Slan
1 How Much for Just the Planet?

On the other hand, my local library branch has a great collection of Virginiana.

#45 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 08:37 PM:

Paula Lieberman:
The Merrimack Valley Library Consortium has the absolute WORST library indexing interface I have ever seen or been angered at trying to use. The worst. I want to track down book information. It is the worst crap software for doing so I have EVER seen, and I was completely and utterly frustrated at the level of MORON it was aimed at, someone who probably makes the folks who go into a bookstore asking for "the book with the red cover" look like High Intelligence Lifeforms....

For contrast, look at theCentral/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing. The folks responsible have done a great job (I can, of course, pick nits) with this system, and I use it a lot (including cut/paste from Making Light to the catalog and then requesting the book). Online catalog for a half of the state, online database and ebook access, direct Inter-Library-Loan of books in the catalog (I still need to visit the reference librarian to request books I can't find in C/WMARS or the state library system). Paula, you should try getting your library to start pushing their library consortium to adopt this system. While you're waiting, get a library card from the nearest town in a different consortium, and use that. One of the wonderful things about Massachusetts is that, by law, residents have access to all municipal libraries in the state. The libraries have banded together in consortiums to facilitate this, and the good ones work incredibly well. Anybody else want to brag about their online library access? I'd love to see other good examples.

I would have been angry at it when I was a five year old, I suspect, it makes looking through old card catalogue physical cards dumped randomly on the floor trying to look up books, be reasonable in comparison!

That might be a great way to discover books you aren't looking for, but need to read...

#46 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 09:49 PM:

"New York Public Library" is shorthand for several things. There's the large building on 42nd Street with the lions, "Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundation" [yes, the Tilden who they stole a presidential election from in 1876]; there are the "branch libraries", dozens of lending libraries in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island; and there are several specialty collections, including the Schomberg Collection for Black Culture in Harlem and the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. I'm not sure where to classify the Donnell Library's large children's collection, so I'll just mention it.

One aspect of there being two "New York Public Library" systems is that they have separate and incompatible online catalogs.

Queens and Brooklyn have separate library systems, each of which has its own main library and many branches (and its own catalog).

The last I checked, you could get a New York Public Library card if you lived, worked, or attended school in New York State. (I doubt they get many requests from, say, Cornell undergraduates who maintain permanent addresses in Georgia, though.) A Brooklyn library card requires a Brooklyn address, and I'm not sure what the rules for Queens are.

Anyone can walk into the big library on 42nd Street, look through the catalog, fill out a call slip, and be brought books to read.

#47 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 03:26 AM:

*delurks*

" The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language..."

I like this... the Law of Conservation of Story.

*relurks*

#48 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 09:27 AM:

Different societies have different children's stories. Medieval Europe probably had lots of stories encouraging girls to become nuns, and boys to become monks or priests.

Just for the record and because I'm a pedant: I've never come across any medieval stories intended specifically for children. Either they were never written down (which is always a possibility), or children were told the same stories everybody else got: Charlemagne, Guilhem de Peiteus, Arthur, the Bible, scurrilous tales of lecherous monks, saints' lives, the great big boar that almost got Uncle Peter, etc.

#49 ::: G.C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 11:44 AM:

I like this... the Law of Conservation of Story.

And I like, very much, the idea of such a law.

Not sure it works for poetry, though. The poets have, collectively, been obsessing over Sappho's lost texts for thousands of years. She's the missing tooth of the Western lyrical tradition. To which the tongue repairs.

Maybe the poets have been writing & rewriting her lost poems for centuries without knowing it....

Back to Manipur, though. Has anyone discovered any follow-up accounts of the fire, or perhaps any local coverage that addresses what seems to be the yawning conceptual gulf between the action (the burning of the library) and the intent of the action (cultural preservation)?

#50 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Paula Lieberman: I see what you mean about that catalog. As far as I can seen, there's no way to search for an exact title/author/etc., only keyword searching is possible. Yuck!

John Houghton: That looks like a slightly different interface on the same system as the Nassau County, Long Island has. (It's customizable.) Brooklyn also uses it.

--Mary Aileen

#51 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 12:30 PM:

Please allow me to disclose here, for the first time anywhere:

Law of Conservation of Story: Story can neither be created or destroyed. It can, however, be transformed between alternative genres, according the equations of Special and General Genre Relativity.

Special Genre Relativity: mathematical theory of Genre, of which the most famous part is the equation E=mC^2. That means Epiphany equals Metaphor multiplied by the interaction between two Characters.

General Genre Relativity: mathematical theory of Genre, which replaced the Newtonian Theory of Linear Narrative with the Story-Time Continuuum, with "Tenser equations" describing how the field caused by Events (with Characters) distorts Plot, and in turn Plot moves Characters (creating new Events). "Dialog" is a travelling wave in the Story-Time Continuuum, which always moves at the Speed of Plot.

#52 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 05:09 PM:

Very sad.

In a competition in F&SF, I wrote an alternate ending to FAHRENHEIT 451, where Guy Montag suggests they write all books on asbestos.

Now I'm starting to wonder if the idea should be taken seriously...

-A.R.Yngve

#53 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 05:04 AM:

And, in other heartwarming news, the president of Turkmenistan has closed all of the country's libraries. All of them. He's already banned any number of public entertainments, but the specific point here is that the President has already written all the books anyone needs, and indeed all the books that are for sale anywhere in the country. His books are the usual sort of thing produced by turdwit dictators (and/or their ghosts) -- absolute rules for conduct and history fictionalized as vanity-press heroic-racist fantasy.

Never mind Fahrenheit 451 -- this road-company Stalin seems to be taking his cue from Alphaville.

http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/rca2/rca2_369_3_eng.txt

#54 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:22 PM:

New Findings May Help Preserve Rare Gutenberg Bibles

Known as the first books to be produced using movable type, the Gutenberg Bibles are also famous for their colorful illustrations. But the exact composition of these 15th century painted images, which depict animals, flowers, fruit and other decorative figures, has remained a mystery, until now.

"Using non-invasive analytical techniques, a team of researchers in England say they have for the first time precisely identified the pigments used to illustrate seven Gutenberg Bibles located in Europe. The findings provide chemical data that could ultimately help preserve and restore these rare historic treasures as well as provide insights into the printing practices of early Europe, they say...."

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#55 ::: cat ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2005, 05:23 AM:

homoagnostic! lol

#56 ::: Elyna Sag ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 10:50 AM:

I hate them why did they burnt central library idiot!
I think they didn't knw much ant the books..

#57 ::: OtterB sees probable spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 10:54 AM:

first-time poster, very old thread, little content

#58 ::: Mary Aileen is dubious ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 10:58 AM:

It is on topic, though. It looks to me more like someone stumbling across this old thread and reacting--somewhat incoherently--to the outrage. Especially since there's no payload.

Mods? Your call.

#59 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 11:02 AM:

Original content, no commercial link, name matches email. Welcome, Elyna Sag! Please join us in this, or other (more recent) threads.

#60 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 01:42 PM:

Okay, my apologies and welcome, Elyna Sag.

I admit that this old thread - which I don't think I read at the time - is worthy of outrage.

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