Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was never assigned to read this in school; I'm glad I finally got around to it. It was a quick read, finished in a couple of days. At first it was annoyingly predictable -- I was familiar with the premise of the story. However, I was drawn in as the plot developed and took some unanticipated turns. I was quite surprised by how many of the things Bradbury envisioned in 1950 have actually come to pass: living rooms with giant flat screen TV "walls," wireless earbuds, sensational reality TV shows, advertising merging with programming, and a population so caught up in trivial television programs that the characters on screen seem more real than the people in the room with them. The crises of the world that people SHOULD be talking about (war, poverty, the mystery of why the entire world hates us -- sound familiar?) are completely obscured and shut out by the television programming that, as I read the book, reminded me of The Real Housewives of New Jersey or The Bachelor

Our TV "family?": The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Finally, Bradbury envisioned that government would not be the instigator of book burning in a democracy such as ours, but well-intentioned minorities, self-appointed sergeants of political correctness censoring one word, then one page, then one book at a time until the libraries stand empty and there is not much left to burn.  Think this is all make believe?  Just recently, in 2012, New York City censored its standardized tests to remove references to dinosaurs (might upset fundamentalists who don't believe in evolution), homes with swimming pools (don't want to draw attention to disparity of wealth, which might upset kids who don't have swimming pools), Halloween, divorce, slavery, etc.  Not Jackson, Mississippi, but New York, New York!

By the way, I bought this book for my 11-year-old son Lars to read originally, then decided to shelve it until I had a chance to read it myself first. It's very child-friendly, and he'll enjoy the Mechanical Hound inspired by the Hound of the Baskervilles, which is part of the Sherlock Holmes collection we're reading now.

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1 comment:

Cathy said...

Fahrenheit 451 was one of my favorite books as a pre-teen. As each of the things in the book came true in our real world, I tried to discuss it with others, citing Bradbury's worriment of how things might be. My children loved the discussions, and their teachers were blown away by papers they each did on the subject.

Duh, children can think if they read!