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Welcome to The Once Lost Wanderer. The name is derived from two poems: Amazing Grace by reformed slave trader John Newton, and All That is Gold Does Not Glitter by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

If someone tells you what a story is about, they are probably right. If they tell you that is ALL the story is about, they are very definitely wrong. ~ introduction to Fahrenheit 451 by Neil Gaiman

This book was powerful and touching.

“Touching” might seem like an odd descriptor for a dystopian tale and I probably won’t convince you. There are a ton of opinions about this book, and before I share mine, let me quote Neil Gaiman once more, but this time specifically in reference to Fahrenheit 451:

He [Ray Bradbury] cared, completely and utterly, about things. He cared about toys and childhood and films. He cared about books. He cared about stories. This is a book about caring for things. It’s a love letter for books.

A love letter for books – Bravo Mr. Gaiman!

It’s really hard to beat that.

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian tale of a time when possession of books is a crime against happiness. If people read, they tend to think – and thinking never leads to happiness. The hero of the tale is fireman Guy Montag, but in this setting firemen do not put out fires, they burn homes, and sometimes the residents, where books are discovered. It’s a bleak world where taking an evening walk is considered suspicious, where front porches and conversations between neighbors have vanished, and humanity is kept stupefied by inane television programing broadcast 24/7.

I called Guy the hero, so you might guess that somewhere along the way he has a moral dilemma that causes him to question his worldview.

I've read perhaps the three great dystopian novelsNineteen Eighty-FourBrave New Worldand A Clockwork Orange. Fahrenheit 451 might be considered a distant fourth, but for me it was the best.

This was the first time I’ve read Fahrenheit 451. I used to read a lot of Bradbury, when I was 10-12 years old. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed his writing. It is difficult to say precisely why. It may be, that for a Sci-Fi, fantasy, horror, and dystopian writer, he maintains a refreshing hopefulness. I don’t feel he has quite despaired of humanity. Fahrenheit 451, though grim and heartbreaking, leaves room for hope.

A few words that Ray Bradbury had to say about his art of writing and/or about Fahrenheit 451:

I once strongly suspected that fun was the handmaiden, if not the progenitor, of the arts; now I know this for certain.
I’m a preventer of futures.
I have written a book about a man falling in love with books.

Ray Bradbury wrote this book almost in entirety in the typing room in the basement of the UCLA library, and noted:  What a place, don’t you agree, to write a novel about burning books in the future!

Regarding the name of his hero, and lesser hero:
I realized that Montag is named after a paper manufacturing company. And Faber, of course is a maker of pencils! What a sly thing my subconscious was to name them thus. And not tell me.
Bradbury was often asked which was the greater inspiration for Fahrenheit 451, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Huxley’s Brave New World. Bradbury however stated quite clearly that Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon was…true father, mother, and lunatic brother to my F. 451.

The title – is reportedly the combustion point of book paper.

Only once, and briefly, was a translation, a Danish translation, entitled Celsius 233.

I’m changing my format a bit. I’m trying to avoid synopsizing or reviewing. My comments are simply the journal of my thoughts and feelings. This book was intellectually powerful and emotionally poignant. And again – a love story – gotta love a good love story. Bravo Mr. Bradbury!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This book satisfies 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge category #8 – A classic with a number in the title. With it, I’ve completed the challenge, so ya know – BOOM!

Excerpts:

We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out ~ a character quoting Hugh Latimer who was burned at the stake in England for heresy in 1555

…books say nothing! Nothing you can teach or believe. They’re about nonexistent people, figments of imagination, if they’re fiction. And if they’re nonfiction, it’s worse, one professor calling another an idiot, one philosopher screaming down another’s gullet. All of them running about, putting out the stars and extinguishing the sun. You come away lost.

It was not burning, it was warming. ~ Montag’s thoughts on approaching the campfire of outcasts and outlaws

I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver’s Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and this one is Schopenhauer, and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed. Here we all are, Montag. Aristophanes and Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha and Confucius and Thomas Love Peacock and Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln, if you please. We are also Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. ~ the leader of a band of outcasts, introducing other outcasts who had committed whole books to memory

I hate a Roman named Status Quo! He said to me. Stuff your eyes with wonder… ~ an outlaw quoting his grandfather

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6 comments:

  1. Hey, congratulations on completing the challenge!

    I some times have trouble with Bradbury's writing style, it can be a little too ornate for me. But I liked Fahrenheit 451 a lot and I think it was pretty prescient in many ways.

    My sister jokingly told me once that I would be the one to memorize Martin Chuzzlewit in this universe (assuming I survive, of course)

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    1. I think you have the basis of a meme there...if you were one of the walking books of F 451, what book would you be? I'd have to be Lord of the Rings...and The Little Prince.

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  2. Loved this novel. I still haven't gotten around to reading any of his other fiction, though, so I should probably fix that.

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    1. He's got a wide range. I've never ready anything by him I didn't like a lot.

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  3. This is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it between college semesters. And re-read it shortly after. And have read it probably 4 times since. It astonishes me with its fierce beauty and, yes, hope.

    Bradbury remains my favorite sci-fi writer because he's less concerned with the science than he is with the fiction. His stories are full of emotions and desires and a brave mixture of past, present, and future. More techy sci-fi authors like Larry Niven and Isaac Asimov never quite do it for me like Bradbury does.

    I'm so happy you've read this :-)

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    1. Yeah, Bradbury's awesome. Once my 100 quest is done, I hope to get back to some more Bradbury.

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