Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fahrenheit 451 [50th Anniversary Edition] by Ray Bradbury

Another banned book, and another book from my youth. I first read this in high school, and I remember feeling perplexed -- why would anyone want to burn books? Reading it now, considering the lack of reading skills of today’s millenials, considering the state of public education, considering the attempts by the radical, religious right to censor all sorts of literature and drive them from libraries and school curricula, we are dangerously close to the dystopia Bradbury describes here.
Bradbury writes, “School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored, life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?” (56). Chilling. Terrifyingly prophetic.
This 50th anniversary edition includes an interview with Bradbury. In response to the question, “How important is reading to the health of a democracy like ours?” he says, “Let’s imagine there’s an earthquake tomorrow in the average university town. If only two buildings remained intact at the end of the earthquake, what would they have to be in order to rebuild everything that had been lost? Number one would be the medical building, because you need that to help people survive, to heal injuries and sickness. The other building would be the library. All the other buildings are contained in that one. People could go into the library and get all the books they needed in literature or social economics or politics or engineering and take the books out on the lawn and sit down and read. Reading is at the center of our lives. The library is our brain. Without the library you have no civilization” (183-84). Read! Five stars.--Chiron, 12/05/2007

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