Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1953, Simon and Schuster, 2003
Awards: Prometheus Award, National Book Award, Hugo Award
Thanks to Myra’s earlier post on Fahrenheit 451, I have finally read Ray Bradbury. One volume. Somehow I missed Bradbury, although how an English major could miss such an author might cause one to wonder. I certainly remember reading Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Even Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Did we call these books dystopian literature or just science fiction? With the current interest in the dystopian genre, I hope readers will pick up Fahrenheit 451 and discover that dystopian literature is not all that new.
This book is chilling and a very fast read, as it is hard to put it down. Guy Montag is a fireman in a society where fireman burn books instead of fight fires. Books and the ideas in them are dangerous. The government has brainwashed citizens into becoming pleasure-seeking non-thinkers while it wages wars the public ignores.
Enter Clarisse, Montag’s new young neighbor whose family has managed to hold the memories of how life used to be. Through conversations with Clarisse, Montag’s uneasiness about his career and his wife’s addiction to sleeping pills and the televisor “walls” which bring babbling actors into their home begins to grow. And so does his desire to reach behind the air duct grate in his home and look at what he hid there once.
Montag is a main character to cheer on, to hope that the seed of truth planted by his young neighbor Clarisse will take root, and he will break free of the government’s web of deceit. His fire chief, Beatty, is the villain Montag must first defeat. Professor Faber becomes the key to Montag’s future. He points him to the rail side intellectual communities who are the guardians of literary classics- all memorized and waiting for the future.
Faber tells Montag that books themselves aren’t magical. “The only magic is in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
Bradbury stitched together a compelling cautionary tale that deserves our attention. Amazingly, he did it in nine days by renting typewriters in the UCLA library basement at the rate of a dime per half hour. $9.80 cents later he offered us Fahrenheit 451.
I never made it to college. I started going to the library when I graduated from high school. I went to the library every day for three or four days a week for 10 years and I graduated from the library when I was 28.
Now that I have been introduced to Bradbury (thank you, Myra!), I will seek out his other books. If you haven’t read Bradbury, don’t miss him. Ray Bradbury died June 5, 2012 at the age of 91.
Award-Winning Book Challenge Status: 11/12