Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summer Reading: Fahrenheit 451

A while ago, a friend tagged me on the facebook to participate in a new internet game where you ruin books by changing one letter, essentially*. This is my favorite kind of activity and I cracked my knuckles and took a quick gander.   Here were some of mine:

1.  The Mall of the Wild- Hot Topic is the last thing you'd need to worry about at this mall...

2. Jake Eyre- Jane's secret brother with an even creepier, darker past

My hilarious and ingenious friend Val added a synopsis:   

In this hilarious family romp, there's Bertha in the attic, being a madwoman and creeping around starting fires, and there's Jake in the basement, stealing food and playing whatever is the Victorian version of video games. Watch what happens when they accidentally meet during their nighttime ramblings!
3.  Animal Fart- a guidebook to get you through the tedium of pet ownership.

This one's Sean's: 
 4. Wart and Peace: coming to terms with your dermatological conditions
And finally: 
5. Fahrenheit 51- the temperature at which nothing burns, and things are kinda chilly actually.

Val's tagline: Is this thing even on? 

This summer, I've decided to dive right into Ray Bradbury. I'm on my third book now and am enjoying myself immensely.  The first book I took on, and the only one of his I'd read previously, was Fahrenheit 451. I read it as a high schooler and it was one of the few books I legit enjoyed amongst all the required reading.  (Also, blogger is not recognizing "amongst" as a word. What's that about, Blogger.)

The book is shorter than I remember. And the more I learn about Mr. Bradbury, the more interested I become. For example, I discovered he may be really more of a short storyist (technical term) and before all this, I wasn't so interested in them, or didn't quite get them.  But I think I may now be beginning to understand.  So Fahrenheit was originally a short story and he expanded it to make a novel and perhaps more publishable. 

The book takes place in future time when books are banned and instead of putting them out, firemen (I'd say "firefighter" to be PC but let's be honest, that wasn't a thing when this was written, which was 1953) are employed to actually start fires and burn books and possibly the homes containing them, and on occasion the home/book-owner who dwells there, who'd rather burn with their books than live without them, something always puzzling but not too alarming to these firemen. 

Guy Montag, our lead character and fireman, doesn't give it a second thought until he comes across a mysterious girl named Clarisse, out for a night walk to apparently do nothing but enjoy a stroll and her surroundings, something apparently extremely odd and highly unsettling for people at this time. Well, it gets Guy thinking, and the more he thinks, the more disturbed he becomes.  And the more this happens, the more he sees that the things going on around him are just not ok, and he feels compelled to fight them. In short, he becomes "woke," you might say.  He gets his hand on a book, sneaks it to his home, can't resist reading it and others. Experiences that crazy feeling of illumination when a person gains knowledge. Realizes he has absolutely no connection to his wife who is decidedly unwoke. He finds people like him and with their help, fights the system, and joins up with other underground readers.

It's really a nice simple read. The things that strike me are of course the themes, but I always love these dystopian societal sci-fi reads because, in my opinion, they create world for people to gain some context as to just what it would be like if things were to be a certain way. If this was the new ideology. If new laws like this or that were in place.  And it serves as a frightening, screaming warning. Never to be ignored.   And it's all in the details.

For example:  In his home and apparently every home, instead of reading, people watch TV. And they have multiple TV's.  I'm not sure if it's just one room with TV's on every wall or if they're all over the house, but I think that's the goal, and this strikes me, especially as I see the technology get closer and closer to reality, from how things were in 1953 and even 1996, when I read it. Guy's wife seems to be quite addicted to the people on these televisions, who she calls her "family," and who spout nothing but dramatic nonsense. Empty and designed to do nothing but keep a person's mind fixated on something so as to not give a chance to rest on something that might truly matter.  And whenever she's away from these screens, all she can think about is getting back. Hmmm. 

Moreover, I'm intrigued by the way characters' attitudes and capacities for individual and critical thinking warp and diminish.  In this Fahrenheit society, people seem to lose the ability to simply pause and reflect, something Clarisse teaches Guy to do. To look around you and just take the world in.  To question things you've never questioned before and to not just automatically accept everything presented.  That not everything common is good.    All of this is looking more and more like prophecy unfolding, to me.  How everyone drives insanely and recklessly fast but that's just like, what you do.   The other day I was driving on ye olde freeway, noticing how the speed limit has climbed higher since the old days. How 80mph was like, really fast back then and how today it's the norm.   The pulse of the world is quickening, the synapses firing more rapidly, and I'm getting a little scared it's going to build and build and something, in some way or another, is going to come to a dangerous, possibly explosive end.  Things will start breaking down. People might start breaking down.  

Is this what Ray saw? (We're friends now) Is this what he was noticing? I can't believe this was written over 50 years ago. Though the implications are a major downer and eerily and uncomfortably on the mark these days, I'm actually not terribly scared of the world I live in. I am surrounded by what I perceive to be by many, attitudes of fear and the separating of oneself from the big bad scary world, and I've decided to take a more active and vocal approach to enjoying the world I live in while still maintaining my own deliberate and carefully selected ideals. That the world is actually still good and it's not me vs. them.  But reading stuff like this definitely acts as a warning for myself to do just that-- uphold the precepts according to which I live my life. Question what's happening around me. Not accept everything even if it becomes scarily, stealthily normalized. Appreciate the beauty and the forgotten remarkable like Clarisse does. To continue to learn to differentiate and discern, and perhaps above all else--to keep reading the books.  

Thanks, Ray. 

*please feel free to come up with some of your own. I honestly could do this kind of thing all the live long day. Reminds me of this similar game and one quite relevant to the book at hand.


Joel said...

If only you could change two letters, you'd get "Jane Eeyore," which would be amazing.

The Red Badger of Courage: Our plucky eponymous mammal must overcome his cowardice and embrace the fearsome reputation espoused by the rest of his species.

Hearth of Darkness: A magical haunted fireplace takes one man on a journey to discover the difference between civilization and savagery, as portrayed by those who use chocolate squares and graham crackers in their s'mores vs. those who use chocolate-covered cookies.

Drabula: An ancient, malevolent being learns to cut loose and enjoy the trappings of modern society through an extensive makeover and establishing a social media presence.

Tropic of Canker: A sordid tale of one dentist's struggles with life and love in the pre-anesthetic days of Jazz-age Paris.

You're right. This could go on all day.

)en said...

Drabula! Amazing. 😆 Jane Eeyore- I can’t even imagine what that would be. Tropic of Cancer sounds like the worst book ever. Way to go, you’ve really ruined all of these. 🙌🏼