Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

Fahrenheit 451

with one comment

By Ray Bradbury
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Rating: Hmm
Read: May 2006

In the last month I've upped by reading significantly. School put a severe dent in things, but I'm going to play catch up this summer. One of the things I've been meaning to do is actually read some of the classics. This is one of them. It's part of the culture by now, but there's way more to it than what little gets mentioned.


Lets start by saying that Bradbury is one weird dude. We read a bunch of short stories in my freshman year of high school and while they carried some heavy meanings and were quite powerful they were also very… weird.

This carries on in that vein. Bradbury is a typical short story writer. There is that Twilight Zone feeling. That 'something isn't quite right here' tickle at the back of your mind. 'I'm missing something.' (Actually, you're not. The writer is. But that's another issue.) Something twisted lurks just out of sight. Fahrenheit has the same aura.

Montag is a fireman–he burns thing, specfically, books. (Cue shudders of horror in booklovers.) It is some unspecified point in the future when television and shiny lights have stolen the public's attention. The people no longer want to read, and so books have fallen by the wayside… and are now outlawed. In the first scene Montag is revelling in the glory of fire, the curl of the page, the heat and light. Then he goes home, meets a girl who's just a little bit nutty and a little bit free, and his perspective changes.

That transition was strange. He meets the girl, Clarisse, and within one conversation he is full of doubts. It was very 1984 and I kept expecting Montag and Clarisse to find an empty bookshop to make love in. (Eek.) But, they don't. Instead Montag goes home to his wife, who is so into the TV that she's like a stranger. She is disturbed by Montag's sudden interest in what's inside the books, but it's Montag's boss who is the real threat.

Captain Beatty has seen firemen ask these questions before. He knows the itch. And he'll give Montag some 24 hours to get it out of his system. Or else.

Then Beatty goes quoting various writers, poets, and artists, and you just have to suspect him.

I don't really know what to make of it. The concept is good, but the pacing is off. It takes ages for Montag to get around to things, then everyone makes lengthy speeches, then Montag does something incredibly stupid (because he JUST CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE-!! …after only a day or so of thinking differently), then he runs away and finds people who make more lengthy species. Then it all goes boom.

Definately a short story writer trying to take on something bigger. It doesn't work very well. So, don't read Fahrenheit for the story. The story is weak. Read it for the philosophy and the historical and social significance. Bradbury's 'world building' and the speeches by his characters are great and should be more widely known. But Montag? I wanna kick him.

Running Man was better in terms of chase.

And the most craptastic quote?

"With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next…" 

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Written by Shen

May 28, 2006 at 12:19 am

Posted in blah, classics, futuristic, scifi

One Response

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  1. I laughed out loud at the “craptastic quote” at the end of this. This book is full of them.

    emily

    January 15, 2008 at 12:07 am


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