Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rereading Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/2003. Random House. 190 pages.

It was a pleasure to burn. 

I first read and reviewed Fahrenheit 451 in May 2007. I then read the graphic novel in October 2010. I couldn't resist reading the "real" book at that time as well. I even sought out A Pleasure to Burn, a collection of stories that traces Bradbury's developing themes. That collection included two crucial stories: "The Fireman" and "Long After Midnight." (Also I watched the movie.) The summer of 2012, I read tons of Ray Bradbury, and, of course, I had to reread Fahrenheit 451!

I definitely consider Fahrenheit 451 one of the rare must-reads. It is intense and thought-provoking. The novel, as a whole, is powerful. But it is in conversation (or dialogue) that this one truly shines. Guy Montag's conversations with Clarisse, with Faber, and to some extent even his boss and wife. It's a very reflective novel as well. In its pages, readers get a glimpse of a man at his most vulnerable: a self awakening of sorts as a man wakes up to the nightmare world in which he's been a part of all along.

Favorite quotes:

Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute...Remember, Montag, we're the happiness boys. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. (50-1)  
 We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe... (62)
Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. (78)
 It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite 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. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)
Though this one is "about" books, in a way, it is not. It is about the ideas, emotions, concepts behind the books. It is about the knowledge and wisdom sometimes contained in books, but never exclusively found in books. It is about choices and lifestyles. The nightmarish culture found in Fahrenheit 451 is a result of people choosing to be shallow, selfish, materialistic, technology-obsessed, and pleasure-seeking. People are "happy." But their "happiness" is fake. It comes at the cost of suppressing emotion and intellect. Free thinking is not encouraged. Thoughts shouldn't have depth and substance! One shouldn't ponder, consider, or reflect! It's about lives packed with noise and busyness--a blur of distractions--all designed to keep you from realizing there is something more, something that has been lost.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

5 comments:

hopeinbrazil 12:30 PM  

Love, love, love this book! The closing chapter where people "are" books is so powerful. I did not like the movie, but they got that last scene right.

Becky 1:27 PM  

I was disappointed in the movie mainly because they eliminated the character of Faber, and over-emphasized Clarisse (not that I hated her, but, still. In the book she does have an unfortunate somewhat mysterious end). I also like the fact that in the book, Montag "became" a book of the Bible (Ecclesiastes). I understand why that might have been a turn-off (even in the 60s) for viewers, it lost something for me. The novel ends with two great allusions to the Bible (Ecclesiastes and Revelation)...it just doesn't get better than the book...for me!

bibliophilica 7:48 AM  

I've read this several times as well, and have grown into a Bradbury fan n general over the past few years. Last year, our book club at the Vinnegut Memorial Library here in Indianapolis read it for banned books week, and were fortunate to have one of Bradbury's biographers with us. I posted about that visit on my blog here if you'd like to take a look (I was fascinated that there was an asbestos-cover edition - wow!)
http://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/banned-books-week-fahrenheit-451-by-ray-bradbury/

-Jay

Stefanie 11:28 AM  

This is one of my favorite books and definitely a RIP worth nightmare scenario!

Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous 8:58 PM  

I remember I read this in two sittings, years ago. Probably due for a reread soon!

Love what you said here: "It is about the ideas, emotions, concepts behind the books." Beautifully put!

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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