Thursday, May 1, 2008

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury's 55-year-old futuristic masterpiece about a time when firemen burn books instead of extinguishing fires. (451F is the temperature at which book pages burn.) His fireman protagonist, Guy Montag, has suddenly changed allegiances and become interested in preserving books rather than destroying them. The book is supposedly about censorship, but to me it seemed to be more about apathy. The book burning started after everyone had stopped reading anyway, and the liberal arts schools had mostly disappeared. Montag's professor friend Faber lists the three things that books provide: texture, leisure to absorb the information, and our response to what they teach us. The texture is the fabric of life that books describe, and the more densely woven the fabric, the better the quality of the book. Bradbury's writing style is not very fluid, but his take on the future is noteworthy at times. Not all of his predictions have come to pass, but the bug that Faber puts in Montag's ear made me think of people wearing their cell phones today. Also, the author mentions that the television is used as a babysitter, and he was spot-on about that. However, we don't have vicious mechanical hounds, at least not that I know of, nor do we all live in fireproof houses, unfortunately.

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