Saturday, July 26, 2008
Books - Book Review - Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
This is one work that I didn't read in high school nor in college. And I am glad that I didn't. Now, with more experience in life (i.e. age), I can appreciate it better.
I bought the 50th anniversary edition, which includes an interview with Mr. Bradbury. He defended the novel as is and wouldn't update it to fit the today's technology. Good for him.
It's still eerie enough for my tastes. And it has the feeling of being in the near future, even though it came out in 1953.
The story takes place in an unnamed Eastern Seaboard city (New York or Boston - since both had subways/ underground rail ) then. Montag is a fireman; he burns homes that have books. Usually someone called the authorities to report these readers.
One night, after getting off work and walking home from the transport station, Clarisse McClellan starts a conversation with him. Montag thinks that she is a strange young lady. She challenges him to think about his work and his surroundings. "How like a mirror, too, her face. Impossible; for how many people did you know refracted your own light to you? ... How rarely did other people's face take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thoughts?"
He realizes that he hasn't had a decent conversation in years, ever since the televisor, came into existence. His wife is so addicted to them that she doesn't notice how inane the shows are and really has no life besides watching tv.
Montag steals some books and starts to read: a crime! He finds a former English professor, who waxes eloquently about books. "Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land?...The magic (in books) is only what books say, how they stitched patches of the universe together into one garment for us...This books has pores. It has features. this can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are.
Bradbury wrote this book in an interesting time in history. More news were being uncovered about the Nazis, including how they killed everyone and tried to control the minds of the citizens. Newsreel images of the book burnings in 1933 Berlin must have been fresh in his mind.
Also, television sets were more popular and dropping in prices, so more people could afford to have one in the house. Some of the early shows must have bored Bradbury, and he saw the effects of people watching the tv more than taking time to read. Little did he realize that cable tv, VHS tapes, DVDs, satellite tv, video games, the Internet and reality shows would take even more time away from reading. (Ok, I admit, I watch 3 reality shows, but I still take time to read.)
The Russians and the Communist way of life was also making news at the time. Perhaps this novel is also commentary of controlling minds via tv. What was unforeseen is that some parts of the Patriot Act also are taking away rights also.
This novel is one of the significant novels selected for the Big Read. Find out whether your city will be reading this one.
I just learned about the End of the World Reading Challenge, so it's on the list!