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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

April 29, 2013

Hi, everyone. I haven’t posted on this blog lately because I’ve been having some wrist issues. It’s mostly cleared up now, but I still have to be careful how I type, so I still might be posting less often for a while.

In the meanwhile, though, here’s a book review of Fahrenheit 451:

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I find myself in a position where I have to write a book review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I signed up for the Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge, so I have to write reviews of 12 books this year. And I just read Fahrenheit 451. So how do you write a critical review of a classic of world literature? The book is nothing but excellent, of course, because this is Ray Bradbury we’re talking about.

I don’t think I can exactly write a review, but I can put down some of the impressions I had while reading.

For the first few tens of pages, I couldn’t help thinking, Silly, grumpy man. Books are indestructible now. We can back them up on the Cloud. But Fahrenheit isn’t actually about a world without books. People in this world are still allowed to read – the fire chief keeps a manual in the station, for example. They’re just not allowed to read anything important.

I think the story’s really about communication getting faster and stupider. Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1951, just as television was starting to become popular. TV in the early days was really fast and stupid. When Star Trek: the original series came out, where Kirk bonks green-skinned space babes right and left, it was considered the most cerebral show on the air. Most television is still fast and stupid communication, but in the last few years some shows have gotten to be artistically good. I wonder what Bradbury would have thought of Downton Abbey.

Bradbury predicted a future where TV reduces everybody to halfwits, but what we got was something stranger: the Internet. Boy, does it have the potential to be fast and stupid. Just take a look at some Youtube comments. But the Internet can also produce Wikipedia, which is something of a miracle. Could Bradbury have predicted that people all over the world would volunteer to create a compendium of everything that is known, then make it freely accessible for everyone?

And that is my not-a-review of Fahrenheit 451.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2013 11:17 AM

    Love this review…I’m a huge sci-fi fan, started with Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov in junior high school (early 70s).

    Had the chance to re-read this book a few years ago. I attended a production of the play by the Labyrinth Theatre Company as part of Celebrate Brooklyn summer festival in Prospect Park, NYC. Fabulous. The theater company looked at the story in the context how the state kept giving people “fast and stupid” communications, and kept from getting reading materials where they could have to form ideas and possibly question the state. Very similar to the questions asked about the anti-terrorism laws.

    You nailed it spot on about the Internet. And I will go further: the Internet has given us a world of information at our fingertips, and the ability to share that information with others, such as Wikipedia. But it has happening at a time when the major news organizations where most people get the news have consolidated, expanded their scope, and their platforms. Microsoft, for example, controls Internet Explorer, which is Bing, MSN, MSNBC, links to NBC, TV, publishing, etc.. At the same time, critical thinking and analysis are not emphasized in school curriculum. And certain books are “banned” from the reading list.

    Makes me go hmmm….. 😉

  2. April 30, 2013 7:31 AM

    Hi, Walicarr,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments! I’d argue that critical thinking is being emphasized in the school curriculum, though. It was emphasized at my high school in the 2000’s, anyway.

  3. June 13, 2013 1:22 PM

    This book is one of my favorites.
    Obviously, it’s not really about the books being burned, but the loss of the knowledge and information. All this is in contrast to the over-loud noise of media and lack of curiosity filling the lives of common people. It leads to the question: Are we really spending our time one what is important, or filling our lives with an empty busyness?

    • June 13, 2013 2:00 PM

      Great observation, L. Palmer. I think “filling our lives with an empty busyness” is a problem for many people in real life. By the way, I love the little cartoons on your blog.

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