Monday, 6 August 2012

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (4/5)

The back says: Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

I say: I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to read this – or even find out what it’s about – since this is yet another book that I’ve known about my entire life.

Shame on me.

As per usual, I didn’t read the synopsis before starting to read so it was a bit confusing at first, but I quickly got into it. Fahrenheit 450 is the temperature that fire burns at, hence the title, and even though it is understood quite early on that this is going to be one of those novels where the protagonists winds up going against society, I think Bradbury did an excellent job in unfolding the Montag’s awareness. It wasn’t just one thing that made him become suspicious, rather he had these little inklings all along, but didn’t know how close attention to pay them.

And then there was, of course, that one big moment that changed everything.

This is science fiction, so pretty much no holds barred, but what I cannot understand is the living room setup with all the screens with people talking to Mrs Montag. I understand that she was hooked on  sleeping pills and spent most of her waking hours talking to the people “in the walls” and not worrying about life outside (as did her friends), but could it really be as insipid as Bradbury’s way of saying that this is how fleeting life had become?

That’s obviously a rhetorical question, since Bradbury has pretty much said as much, but it is also one of the main reasons why this didn’t get a 5/5 rating – it was just too obvious for my liking.

It somehow feels a tad superfluous to talk about the burning of books on a book blog that’s called Kill Me if I Stop, so I’ll just add, for the sake of it, that Bradbury’s dystopia is my idea hell. And here one can argue whether or not I would feel this way if I had been born into a world without books, but I flatter myself to believe that if I had had some poetry read to me I would have done whatever it takes to find the books.

Two of the most poignant quotes from the novel are both uttered to Montag by Faber, a professor who tries to help him on his search for truth, and I just had to share them here:


“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.” – p 91

“Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for the shore.” – p 94





*This is my nineteenth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).

8 comments:

  1. I read this after having known about it forever too, only it was a lot better than I'd imagined it would be. Which was good! I have to add that I think the Classic Bribe Challenge is an AMAZING idea... Hmmm...

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    1. It's a shame sometimes that we don't just read certain books straight away. But then I guess there's the problem with that neverending TBR pile.

      And yes, The Classic Bribe Challenge is excellent - go for it!

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  2. I really, really love this book. It definitely ranks up there as one of my favorites! I think that anyone that fancies themselves a book lover must read this book at some point in their lives.

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    1. I agree. There must be an essential list of books about books for book lovers somewhere that is waiting to be found. Perhaps that'll be a challenge for me to fail next year.

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  3. I took the living room screens to be television or (now) computer screens, just a bit more interactive. They made me think of the giant plasma screens some people get now. Makes me wonder if we are on our way to Bradbury's alternate reality.

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    1. Yes, that is what Bradbury meant with them, but I was expecting some deeper meaning underneath that. But it's true, I know people who are glued to their phones all day and when they get home they sit in front of the computer. I guess all that's missing are the sleeping pills.

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  4. I haven't read this yet either but it's pretty high on my TBR. I can't wait to read it and finally see what's all about...even though I am already really familiar with the plot. I hope I don't find it too vague though as I usually detest books like that.

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    1. It's not vague at all - if you got that impression from my review it's probably because my reviews are always so centred on how books make *me* feel, which is sometimes weird.

      But I look forward to reading your review; I want to see how all book lovers react to the burning of books.

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