Published by Simon and Schuster on January 10th 2012
Genres: Fiction, Classics, Literary, Science Fiction, General
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
I never read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in high school, but I’ve always wanted to read it. As you guys know, I love dystopian stories, so I knew this book would be right up my alley. Fahrenheit 451 tells the disturbing story of a society where books are burned. A place where firemen start fires, instead of putting them out. Guy Montag is one of these men, but his life takes a different turn when he begins to question his society, and the mindless television that consumes their lives.
I received this book from one of the members in my book club who was promoting the Los Angeles Public Library’s Big Read for the month of March. The event was attended by several people who work with books for a living: history professor, book agent, book preservationists, etc, and others who had read this classic story. We discussed whether this future is probable, and why we believe books are important to society. There were also fun questions like, “What book would you save from the fires?” and “Which book would you personally burn?” Overall, it was a fun event, and I would love to participate again sometime.
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
What I loved about this story was all the technology Ray Bradbury envisioned would take over our world. From flat screen televisions, reality tv, and bluetooth listening devices, Bradbury’s chilling story still resonates today. I also thought it was interesting that Montag lived in a world where people raced around committing crimes of theft and murder like every day was The Purge. People are so sucked into their interactive television shows, that they don’t want to read any more. Not only that, but almost every book in the world has been found to be offensive, and thus banned. Enter the Firemen. Men tasked with burning seditious reading material, and sometimes even the people who own it. In a world where e-readers, audiobooks, and gaming systems are commonplace, this future does seem quite probable, though I doubt it will come to pass anytime in the new future. Viva los libros!