Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Main Character: Guy Montag, a fireman who burns books
Location: Undefined
Time period: Not too distant future
Genre: Dystopian Society

Like many people, I first read this book in high school and the main thing I remembered about it was the group of people who each memorized a different literary work so that it would be preserved for the future. My friends and I were so taken with that thought that we decided to memorize Gone with the Wind--I think we managed about 4 chapters before we gave up.

I decided that I needed to re-read it when I learned that it was the book chosen for the upcoming Big Read project. One of the things that surprised me, that I had forgotten or had not picked up on when I read it before, was that in this future not all books are banned. It's easy to think so because the image of the firemen burning books is so strong that some of the finer details can go unremarked. Anyway, it's the great works of literature that are banned and burned--comic books, trade journals, sex magazines are still allowed. Fahrenheit 451 was not so much about governmental censorship as societal intellectual laziness--Ray Bradbury believed that television would supplant books and reading.

There isn't a lot of plot in the book--it's more a series of set pieces that allow Bradbury to expound on his theories through different characters. This is not a bad thing--he's got a lot of things to say. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but he does make some very good points.

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