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Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word (2009)

by Toni Morrison (Editor)

Other authors: Paul Auster (Contributor), Russell Banks (Contributor), Nadine Gordimer (Contributor), David Grossman (Contributor), Pico Iyer (Contributor)5 more, Orhan Pamuk (Contributor), Ed Park (Contributor), Francine Prose (Contributor), Salman Rushdie (Contributor), John Updike (Contributor)

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1744149,201 (3.78)12
Published in conjunction with the PEN American Center, Burn This Book is a powerful collection of essays that explore the meaning of censorship and the power of literature to inform the way we see the world, and ourselves.

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This is certainly a powerful little collection of essays focused on the importance of writing and how it combats censorship. I greatly enjoyed reading different authors' takes on the same subject, as well as their anecdota of how the written word has been used to fight the wrongs of society. One story that stuck with me particularly was that of author Pico Iyer's correspondence with Maung-Maung in Burma (now Myanmar). Never did I feel that the essays were too self-congratulatory or arrogant in tone, but that each author tackled their topic of choice with tact and grace. I would certainly re-read this in the near future, if given the chance. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
Pretty tiresome. I liked Pico Iyer's and Nadine Gordimer's essays, but this was largely an uneven and self-congratulatory collection. Francine Prose's contribution made me roll my eyes—her writing had a tendency to confuse barely-developed ideas and smug questions for gnomicism. Ed Park's was inane. No one, it seems, ever told John Updike that his personal experiences and feelings are not necessarily universal—I found his essay infuriating, positing as it does that everyone ought to feel about writing the same way as he does. Still, I suppose the time spent reading this slim volume saved me from spending much longer slogging through the novels of some of the writers featured here. ( )
  siriaeve | Jun 7, 2013 |
This collection of essays, edited by Toni Morison, present varying points of view on censorship and the power of literature in the world. One that sticks out in my mind is Pico Iyer's "The Man, The Men at the Station," the story of how he met a trishaw driver in Mandalay, who shares with him a book he wrote and must keep secret.

I also quite enjoyed "The Sudden Sharp Memory," by Ed Park, which looks at the banning of the book I am the Cheese and its real and imagined effect on students.

Though a few are a bit dense and perhaps overly complex, all the essays in this book present fascinating points of view, and all are very well written. ( )
1 vote andreablythe | Nov 18, 2011 |
Anyone who has read even one book, poem or article or who has seen even one scripted play, movie or television program knows the power of the writer. The eleven writers of the essays in this book flesh out the reasons writing can affect people's emotions and their actions. Toni Morrison calls this power a "necessity," and each of the essays gives a different point of view as to why we should all be vigilant to see that the power of the written word remains freely available to all people everywhere.

These essays call into question what happens when writing makes us uncomfortable, makes us angry, makes us sick. The diversity of viewpoints presented includes Salman Rushdie, David Grossman, and Nadine Gordimer. Wherever you fall on the philosophical and political spectrum, you still have to face the question: Where do we draw the line on allowing the freedom of ideas?

Burn This Boook says that trying to suppress ideas, and the written expression of those ideas, dehumanizes everyone, and breaks down social and cultural bonds. If you want to think about these things, and are interested in engaging in a dialogue to answer the questions, this is a good book to start with. If you find these ideas too uncomfortable and would rather avoid the whole subject, I think reading this book is a necessity. ( )
  briantomlin | May 25, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Morrison, ToniEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auster, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banks, RussellContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gordimer, NadineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grossman, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Iyer, PicoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pamuk, OrhanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Park, EdContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prose, FrancineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rushdie, SalmanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Updike, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Published in conjunction with the PEN American Center, Burn This Book is a powerful collection of essays that explore the meaning of censorship and the power of literature to inform the way we see the world, and ourselves.

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