So technically I have been participating in the Classics Challenge 2011 hosted by Stiletto Storytime, but for some reason I keep forgetting to to link my posts. So many posts later I will finally participate in this challenge properly!
It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed…
This year is the first time I have ever read anything Mr. Bradbury, but after two of his novels I can honestly say that he is very quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. I, by chance, read Something Wicked This Way Comes a couple of months ago and then immediately went online to find out more about the author and ordered what seemed to be one of his most important novels, Fahrenheit 451. While I think most people who have come through the American school system would have come across this novel at some point in time, for someone like me, who has spent most of his life coming through a Caribbean school system, it is not a text that is generally discussed or on our school curriculums…at least not in Barbados.
The story is about Guy Montag, a fireman. Only, he is not the kind of fireman that puts out fires, he starts them. In the dead of night, always at night, a squadron of firemen go out to burn books and the homes of those people who keep them. To own, or worse yet, to read a book is a grievous crime. One night, however, Montag meets a peculiar 17 year old girl who forces him to acknowledge little things that he had not thought of before, or maybe he had but suppressed it. His meeting with the girl, an old ex-college professor and a woman who is willing to burn along with her books, has forced him to come to the realization that he is unhappy…and then he starts to become curious about the books that he is supposed to be burning. This curiosity becomes the catalyst that will ultimately change his life, and hopefully, the lives of the people in his community forever.
They are two definite reasons why I enjoyed this story; the first is the beautiful language that seemed more like poetry than prose at times; the second is its emphasis on the importance of books. Books are important dammit, and I’m not saying that because I’m a book blogger…well not just…One reason for the destruction of books in the story seems to be that ignorance is bliss; as long as people are satisfied with the ‘how’ and do not wonder about the ‘why’, then that makes for happier community. Books are in a sense seen as subversive, a serpent in a garden. So the ‘fireman’ is creating a kind of sameness, by destroying books, which are receptacles of knowledge. The other possible reason for the destruction of books has to do with the lack of interest in books in general as they are being outdone by alternative forms of entertainment, for instance, Mildred’s ‘programs’. The alternative activities do not leave any room for thought in general.
The version I bought is the 50th anniversary edition; in it is an afterword, there is something titled Coda and an interview. I found the Coda interesting, particularly the bit where Bradbury addresses the issue of ‘minorities’ wanting to change bits of classic texts because they find it offensive…Immediately the Huckleberry Finn issue comes to mind which you can learn more about here. Bradbury states that;
The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with matches.
As far as I am concerned, no one should not have the right to make any alterations to a classical text. In reference to his own books, Bradbury goes on to say;
Do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works.
This is definitely one of those lingering stories, you know, one of those that haunt you long after you have finished reading it. Anyway, seeing that I’m newbie when it comes to reading Bradbury, any suggestions on which of his works I should read next?