Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fahrenheit 451: A 'Review'

Near the original Emerald Queen Casino, Tideflats area, Tacoma, WA by Shelley McElhiney*
How does one review a classic? A 'banned' book? A controversial book, even now, more than 50 years after its first publication? I don't think you can or maybe shouldn't, but it should be discussed & thought about, so here are some random thoughts & answers to a few questions:

  • What was the book about? The book is about burning books (Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn), but more than that it is about destroying independent thought, about the pursuit of happiness through ignorance, about allowing technology to take over our thoughts & lives, something that Bradbury wrote often about, one of his favorite topics. It starts as the story of a fireman, not the kind of fireman we see today, who puts out fires & saves buildings & libraries, but the kind of fireman who starts fires, destroying 'dangerous' books & subversive literature, saving the public from old knowledge that might make them sad & unhappy, unable to carry on with their mundane lives, in the face of wars that they know little to nothing about, saving them from the knowledge that they are wasting their lives on meaningless frivolity & mundane tasks
  • Did you like or dislike it? I loved it, which is up from my original feelings. I originally read this as a child & I liked it, but there were depths that were lost on me, not because I couldn't read the words, the text & even some into the subtext, but because I hadn't experienced enough to read into the depths & richness of the novel.
  • Who was your favorite character? Most were interesting, who should I pick? Clarisse, the catalyst that changed Montag's perceptions, his reality? Faber, the old man who helps Montag after he realizes that the world is not what it once seemed? Montag, the main character, whom I disliked immensley, at the beginning, but who moves toward redemption, in the end.
  • What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite? My favorite part is not a part at all, but the subtle progression of the themes, throughout the novel. Least favorite, maybe the scene where Montag reads bits of poetry to the women who have gathered with his wife, for an evening. The women represent the worst of the society that has formed, lead by the 'pictures' of their 'families' that stream through their homes, on an almost constant basis, pictures that take the place of reality & thought. What bothers me, is that the women in the novel & this scene in particular, seem to be more reliant on their 'families.' This probably has more than a little to do with the era in which the book was written, where few women worked outside the home.
  • Have you read any other books by this author? Many
  • Would you read any others because of this book? I have & probably would again,
  • Were there any situations or characters in the book that you identified with? How? I identify with Clarisse in that she can't help thinking outside the box. This is where creativity & inventiveness live. The box is often synonymous with stagnation & oppression. In the book, her way, her families way leads to both freedom & danger.
  • Did you like the book from the beginning or did it take you a while to get into it? At first, it was difficult to get into, Montag's character was not likable & the reality he lives in is frightening
  • Would you change anything about the book? No, I don't think would. 
  • Would you ask the author a question if you could? What would you ask? I'm not sure what I would ask Bradbury, such a prolific & interesting writer.
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers? Yes, definitely!
  • What surprised you the most about the book? The depths of the storyline & characters
  • What is the significance of the title? Would you have given the book a different title? If yes, what is your title? Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn & fire plays a huge role in the novel, I couldn't think of a more perfect title. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, in a shorter version, under the title "The Fireman," I think the change to "Fahrenheit 451" is a far more provocative title. 

Have you read "Fahrenheit 451?" Was it recently? Did you re-read it later? How have your perceptions changed? SAM

*Original photo by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved

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