This week I reread a classic, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury. I admit to being on a Bradbury binge. I read "The October Country" in October, and "From the Dust Returned" around Halloween. I'm also reading "The Illustrated Man" and listening to "The Martian Chronicles," all by Bradbury. What else...had to check my Goodreads' books read in 2015 list. That's all, but come on, that's quite a load by the same author.
The first author I read through was the Master Stephen King. Loved him in high school, and I've read through most of his canon. But other than the King, I haven't been so fixated on an author. Of course there are the series that we read through, like Game of Thrones, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, that cover most of an author's work. But this isn't it with Bradbury, his works are all over the place.
- "Fahrenheit 451" is about a dystopian society where firemen set fires, to books and those holding them
- "From the Dust Returned" is the original Addams Family story, literally, with roots deep within the Elliott clan, an extended family of vampires, ghosts, shadows and winged creatures
- "The October Country" is a collection of short stories varying from supernatural reapers in the Midwest to a story about a dwarf carny
- "The Illustrated Man" is another short story set, and from what I've read so far these are all set in outer space
- "The Martian Chronicles" as you can guess is a story set on Mars featuring Martians
See? Such variety, and these are only a few of his works. His "Zen in the Art of Writing" is a must-read for any writer in training. He also has "Dandelion Wine," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "The Halloween Tree," "The Golden Apples of the Sun," "I Sing the Body Electric! & Other Stories," and a ton of other short story compilations and novellas.
So backtracking to "Fahrenheit 451," because let's be honest, I didn't really read this in high school, like most of the literature assigned to me. Still, I feel like this is one of those books you should reread periodically at different periods of your life.
It keeps things in perspective.
Thinking this book was written way back in 1953 is even cooler. Very "Brave New World" in terms of prediction about what type of world we could very well live in if we aren't careful.
In place of a synopsis, because if you haven't read the book before you need to now, here are some favorite quotes I noted while reading:
"School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?"
**Yes gradually is meant to be twice.
"Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with."
Doesn't this remind you of Google all up one side and down the other? All of the information you want at your fingertips, but a complete lack of structure and categorizing abilities. We might have instant access to the facts, yet where is the logic we need to help us apply those facts?
"But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn't use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us."
That is some serious truth. With everything that's happening in the world today, as history repeats itself with immigrants fleeing war zones and terrorists on a rampage, instead of reading and learning from our past, we relive it. It happens with fashion, it happens with politics, and it's happening with social injustice.
Such a shame. Advice, you say? What to do? As Bradbury put it in "Fahrenheit:"
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
Instead of ignoring the world and the events beyond our communities and cities, learn all you can about what is happening in Paris, in Syria, in Morocco, in Greenland. Read, read, read about current events and spark discussions where you apply what you have read to the real world around you.
After all, books, newspapers, magazines and journals that are looked at, flipped through, browsed and collecting dust might as well be burned if we aren't going to listen to the thoughts and ideas their writers want to pass along.
So, on that light note, *enter sarcastic snicker here, what is your favorite Bradbury book? Please share in the comments!