The old Cincinnati Library 1874-1955

A dialog.

“What’s this?”


“This ‘Resolution 451’ business.”

“Not a business. Just a revolution. Like a New Year’s revolution.”

“You mean resolution.”

“Well, yes, but it’s a revolting matter to have to deal with after all the ages..”

“How so? What’s the matter?”

“It’s about time for the peasants to revolt. That’s all. Past time, I think.”


“To save books from perdition. They’re being destroyed, removed, replaced, expurgated, and abridged. Libraries are busy giving up the wealth of their collections for space to install machines that will be out of date in ten our twelve years—machines that operate soft-ware that will be useless in five or six. The arbiters of political correctness are getting rid of anything that does not meet their approval, altering texts they don’t like. Special interest groups are removing books they disagree with. And the publicly funded colleges all assign the same texts. Publishers are refusing to publish books that do not fit with their political templates. Our literature is being lost to morons who read twitter feeds.”

“Wooh! Except for the twittering, that’s always been going on. It’s the way it always was.”

“Yes, but no. The market has always been there with diverse opinion to soften the blow. It didn’t matter that certain publishers or bookshops refused to carry some books, an audience could always be found for something different. Today, with the new dependence on a few tech giants, Google and Amazon alone can make a book or an author ‘disappear.’ The half-dozen large publishers that remain are dependent on Amazon and Google to survive. Outside of Barnes & Noble, most of the independent new bookshops are vanity projects, solipsistic trust-fund wallowings, but they still all carry most of the same books. It’s a joke.”

“How about the used bookshops?”

“Most of them are run by old guys like me. Baby boomers, still reliving the sixties and seventies. Marginal, at best. We can’t afford to save ourselves, much less the world’s greatest literature. ”

“So, what’s your plan?”

“A resolution. There are still hundreds of millions of old books out there. Most people who read books already have a good collection of their own. What if the tens of thousands of devoted readers purposely collect a library of their own favorites and formally accept the responsibility of caring for them and passing them on to the next generation? 451 books can become millions of volumes preserved, each collection unique, with all those tens of thousands of different ideas and opinions about what is good and what is not. Better than that, these will be ‘old’ books, published before the current arbiters of good and bad started their high-tech book burnings.”

“Is that why you chose ‘451?’ Because of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451?”

“Yes. But in that great novel, each of the book-lovers memorized a text. A nice conceit. But this is not 1953, and many of us don’t have the faculties to memorize text that way. And more than that, there are just so many wonderful books to save. These books have already been printed. They are out there to be preserved.”

“Why don’t you just make a list?”

“Because I don’t know most of the best there is. I know of a small fraction. And my tastes are not yours. The more people that participate, more of the best writing will be saved. Not as judged by some academic who has studied how to study but as judged by those who love the books in their own right. Not every wonderful book is War and Peace. A good mystery, a western, a collection of humorous stories, serve their own part in civilizing the mind and heart.”

“You think 451 books enough?”

“Likely not. But people should not become overwhelmed by their possessions. 451 books is about twenty boxes worth and they’ll fill a couple of 3’ x 8’ shelving units. Most people can deal with that. And it will take some time for them to assemble; to pick and choose what really matters to them. Too many books might overcome the spirit to carry through with the resolution, which is just a promise to yourself, after all, to preserve and protect.”

“How do you intend to reach people with this idea?”

“Word of mouth. Emails. Facebook messaging. Whatever works.”

[  More on Resolution 451 may be found at  Avenue Victor Hugo Books:  ]