As you can see, I am a little behind and all mixed up on my book reviews (amongst many other things). On the topic of books, I have almost completed my “official” reading list so you (and I) can see what will be coming up.
Week Four of the 2015 Reading Challenge was a book with a number in the title. I had a few books I considered for this (And none of them with ‘half’ because, well frankly that doesn’t always refer to a number. But I digress.) and finally settle on Ray Bradbury’s infamous and commonly banned Fahrenheit 451. Somehow I never ended up having to read this in high school, nor in the eight years since. I decided to fix that.
Okay, so let me admit my shortcomings here. Serious, serious shortcomings. I had next to no idea what this book was about. I mean, I knew it had something to do with a fire fighter and that it was one of the most frequently banned/challenged books. That is it. Is that sad? I hope not…
So Fahrenheit 451 follows a fireman, not a fire fighter. His name is Guy Montage and what he does is start fires….with books. In the future described in this 1950’s classic, books are against the law. All books. So when someone suspects another person of having books, they call the firemen who come in, locate the books, and set them on fire.
Guy loves his job with a deep pleasure that, in the beginning, almost feels erotic. Then one day he meets Clarisse McClellan, a seventeen year old girl who, by the standards of his world, is just plain odd. She tells him things about the past (like that firemen used to put fires out, not start him), that he initially finds incredibly farfetched. Slowly though, it begins to eat at him and chip away at the armor and he begins to question things. This is a bad thing because society is a “don’t ask questions” type of place.
Besides those two you have a few more characters that come up a bit: Mildred, Beatty, and Faber.
Mildred, his wife is irritating to say the least. She sits around all day in the TV parlor and does, basically what sounds like a really lame online RPG like The Sims. Three of the walls in the parlor are actually TVs and she harasses Guy for a fourth wall, even though it costs one-third of his yearly pay. Most of her time is spent on her virtual things.
Beatty is Guy’s fire chief. He plays the role of sympathizer for awhile, telling Guy that they all question at sometime but realize that books are worthless. He also sits down with Guy and fills him in on the real history of how books became illegal and why their jobs came to be the way they are. (I’ll touch a little more on that in a moment).
Faber was an English professor before books were banned. He and Guy happened upon each other years ago and being a nice person, Guy never turned him in for possessing books. Naturally then, he turns to Faber for help in understanding books and the society around him.
Okay so the history…this may walk a fine line on the SPOILER fence, but I will try my best to not spoil anything. You have been warned though…
Lemme try to do this talking in context of our own society. Every book is going to offend someone. Period. There is no way around it. Bowing to the PC nature we live in, older books get a nice revamping and the offensive material gets taken out (see Huckleberry Finn). Some books have to be abridged because we don’t really understand what in the world is going on. Long series get shortened into trilogies, and trilogies into standalones.
Are you catching on?
Fahrenheit 451 battles the idea of any form of censorship in a wonderfully written book that you can read in a single sitting (I know I did). Not only is it insanely quotable, but it is just as relevant today as it was during the McCarthy Era. With the rise of a PC society, it may even be more relevant now.
My recommendation is to not wait like I did on this one. Not only is it short and to the point, but it costs around $3 from Half Price Books. This is a must read for every American.