Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Banned Book Week)
The background story: Fahrenheit 451 takes place in an unspecified future time (some dialogue places it after 1990) in a hedonisticanti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control. This America is filled with lawlessness in the streets ranging from teenagers crashing cars into people to firemen at a station who set their ‘mechanical hound’ to hunt various animals by their scent for the simple and grotesque pleasure of watching them die. Anyone caught reading or possessing illegal books is, at the minimum, confined to a mental hospital while the books are burned by the firemen. Illegal books mainly include famous works of literature, such as Walt WhitmanWilliam Faulkner, as well as the Bible and all historical texts.
My synopsis: The book opens with Fireman Guy Montag coming home after a long day at work. As he gets close to home he meets his new neighbor Clarisse who is young and free spirited. As they walk and talk Guy finds her talk strange… speaking of taking time to look at the grass and enjoy a summer. yes, even after their brief encounter he can not get what she spoke of out of his head.
Once home he finds his wife laying on the bed having taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills. When Montag calls for help a team comes and cleans her out as thought they were carpet cleaners. Their cold regard to a human life starts Montag really thinking about the state of society and about why he does what he does.
Fireman in this futuristic read do not put out fires… they start them. In fact in this world the fireman we all know, never existed. Firemen always started fire. And why? Well to burn books of course. Reading is BANNED and if you are caught with books they are all burned, many times your home too, and occasionally the home owner. During one such raid, Montag catches site of a line in one the books as it is being burned, “Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine.” This prompts Montag to steal a book…..
… and it’s not the first time….
This book should be the king of the banned books week. Why? Because it is actually a book about banning books. It’s brilliant – and so is Bradbury who I have never read before.
Honestly, before I listened to this book (yup – audio…. while I mowed the lawn and when I would get ready for work in the morning…) I had no idea what it was about. Well.. sure I thought it had to do with fire… but if I would have known this was a book about burning books. I probably would have made this one a priority long before now.
Books, according to the story do nothing but put ideas into people’s heads. And really who needs free thinkers all willy nilly coming up with their own ideas?
I really was impressed by this reading and was surprised really how much I enjoyed the story line. I have never been one for sci-fi or futuristic reads but have to make an exception in this case. For as old as this book is (originally published as The Fireman in 1951), it is almost spooky how it speaks of censorship.
I really enjoyed this audio – if you remember I had one audio of this I gave up on due to the narrator. Unfortunately that narrator was Ray Bradbury himself. I hate to say it, but I could not understand him. I sent that copy back tot he library and purchased a different narrator at audible.com, read by Christopher Hurt, this one was amazing.
It’s frightening to think that as book stores close, libraries fight to stay open and e books become more popular… that I picture my library becoming paper contraband… hiding my books in the basement under lock and key and the pretense of a storage room…
Why was Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury banned?
The banning of “Fahrenheit 451” Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book about the evils of book banning and censorship is one of those circular jokes that we see every once in a while. The initial complaint was that the words “hell” and “damn” appeared in it making it a corrupting force on society. Opponents then noted that one of the books burned was a Christian Bible and took the position that the author advocated burning Bibles (rather than the opposite that he was trying to show how bad things had become)
A more obvious reason seems to exist. One of the main themes of the story is that a government which tries to suppress freedom of expression should be opposed. In the early 50’s, when this book was written, this advocacy of opposition was seen as a bad thing by real world authoritarian groups (e.g. McCarthyism) that claimed to have all the answers.
Like the opposition to “1984”, the opposition to “Fahrenheit 451” seems to grow as the depicted society grows too similar to our own. One of these uncomfortable parallels is today’s increased use of entertainment in place of learning and culture. Ray Bradbury has stated that this dumbing down was one of the concerns he was trying to raise.
I purchased this copy from audible.com