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Burn This Book: Notes on Literature and Engagement Paperback – 1 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (1 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061774014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061774010
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,522,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), Paradise and Love. She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction.

Product Description


"The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists' questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, cancelled films - that thought is a nightmare." - Toni Morrison quoted in an article about censorship and the launch of the Free Speech Leadership Council.
--The Guardian,5 June 2009

About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and, most recently, A Mercy. She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Form: This is a slim volume/Anthology of essays on the power of writing/ the cost of censorship by PEN writers (PEN is the Human Rights Group that published this book).

Here is a brief introduction to each essays subject, along with some of my favourite quotes:

* Orphan Pamuk: His essay is about the importance of the PEN organisation.
* Ed Park: His interestingly formatted section muses on banned books especially books banned in schools.
* Francine Prose: Her essay is very disjointed, and basically turns into a list of book recommendations on political works.
* Russell Banks: Really interesting essay about novels as a source of significant social change.
* John Updike: This is a great meditation on why people write. 'Why write? As soon as as ask why rivet? Because a number of personal accidents drift us towards the occupation of riveter, which pre-exists, and, most importantly, the riveting gun exists, and we love it'.
* Paul Auster: His essay is also about why he writes.
* Nadine Gardiner: This is a fascinating essay on witness literature, in that if people turn their experiences of atrocities into literature then in becomes unavoidable and permanent in the collective conscience. This essay also has a thorough bibliography, which is great.
* Toni Morrison: This essay is way too short, but absolutely brilliant essay on the power of writing and why dictatorships are so frightened of writers that they have to censor them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An Important Book For Those Against Literary Censorship 12 May 2009
By Lauren G - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity." -Toni Morrison

I was especially interested in this book due to its topic - censorship of literature. Writers everywhere are suffering due to their desire to write. To tell a story. Whether it's banning, imprisonment or death, many dedicated writers are paying for their talent. (The most notable here in the States would be the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, where a fatwa was issued, telling all Muslims to murder Rushdie for his written blasphemy against their religion). On May 12th, HarperStudio, in conjunction with PEN American Center, the major voice for literature and free expression, is releasing Burn This Book (as well as a nationwide petition) as a way to bring awareness to how much these writers endure.

Burn This Book features 11 essays written by incredibly prominent writers from all over the world. It starts with the speech Morrison gave at the PEN International Festival dinner, entitled "Peril." She sets the mood of the book, voicing her opinion that writers should never be silenced, instead they should be listened to, for they bring art and awareness to the world. As the book unfolds, essay after essay dictates the same idea, only in many different ways.

Both John Updike and Nadine Gordimer have strong, verbose essays ("Why Write" and "Witness: The Inward Testimony" respectively) that bookend the anthology. Showing how authors can have a political awareness and voice in the world, the authors successfully dictate the importance of literature. These are the essays that literature students will study in college and dissect carefully, thoughtfully. Although those two are arguably the the most notorious writers in the collection, their essays were far from my favorites. I really enjoyed Pico Iyer's "The Man, The Men at the Station," the story of his stay in Mandalay when he met a trishaw driver by the name of Maung-Maung who wrote a book, but could never publish it because it was frowned upon to be thought smart there. "Freedom to Write" by Orhan Pamuk was an incredibly interesting look at Pamuk's meeting with Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter, two renowned authors, in the 80's. As the latter two fought for the rights of writers in Turkey, Pamuk discovered the political persona in himself, one that he always kept out of his books, perhaps in fear of being imprisoned like the others. I especially loved "The Sudden Sharp Memory" by Ed Park which was written just like the famously banned novel "I Am The Cheese" by Robert Cormier. The essay, written like an interview, discusses why Cormier's book was banned and how it changed him, as an author and a person. I loved how he put himself into the story and wrote it similarly to the book it's praising.

Rushdie himself had an essay in there entitled "Notes on Writing and the Nation," which addresses just what it states. Using a poem by R.S. Thomas as the backbone, he discusses the practicality of writing. Although his essay was incredibly interested, part of me hoped he would have approaches his very real previous situation. Paul Auster's "Talking to Strangers" is an essay every writer should read. It addresses the question "why write?" and beautifully answers it by bluntly stating "it's the only job I ever wanted."

All in all, Morrison created an excellent collection that showed how writing is more than just words on a page. That it could make a difference. That it could speak to people, reveal answers to a country. A writer's words should never be silenced - they should be the soundtrack to our time.

Burn This Book should be given to any professional writer. As a former teacher, I feel very strongly against book banning and this book let me see that it's more than just that. It opened my eyes to the struggles we face. It made me realize that there has to be an end to it. But, most of all, it made me want to write.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Witnessing The World Around Us With Body, Mind, and Soul 1 Mar 2010
By Charles Day - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up this book of a little more than a 100 pp I thought, I can read through this in an afternoon. It took a bit longer and at the end of the first reading I thought, I have no idea what I've just read.

So, I started again a few weeks later - that reading has taken about a week but this time I think I know what my problem was in the first reading (I have a good idea now what the 11 writers are doing). Reading these essays is like reading 11 different books with very different styles and points of view - the kind of book that I don't `get' until I've read about 100 pages and gotten to know that writer's style. Then it suddenly snaps into focus.

The focus and depth of each essay is powerful once one has gotten the point the author is trying to make. The last essay, "Witness: The Inward Testimony", pretty much clinches the point, of which the other ten are prime examples - we are living in highly engaging times when we each become participants - witnesses - witnesses of extreme joys and tragedies happening simultaneously any place in the world experienced via the media, the internet and word of mouth, if not by being physically present to the event. Each of us must process the impact of these experiences on our bodies, our minds, our souls. This processing of the life unfolding around and within us is one in which writers aid us - each in a different, unique and personal way.
Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak OUt on the Power of the Word 12 Jan 2013
By Diana E. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading all of Toni Morrison book, just wanted to add this to my collection.
Received this book within 1 week of ordering it and would tell family and friends to order a copy.
Thank you!
Doesn't Disappoint 9 Jun 2011
By Lan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
from the opening, written by Miss Morrison herself, i knew i had a wonderful book. if you are a writer, or enjoy the skill of great authors, this is definitely a book to pick up!
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