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Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Choice For Banned Books Week

I have decided to read a sample from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a book about banning books which, in 2006, was challenged in Texas because of "discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, dirty talk, references to the Bible and using God's name in vain." It apparently went against the challenger's religious beliefs.

Well. Can't please everyone, can we? And I should point out that the hero, Montag, doesn't smoke, drink or talk dirty. He watches as his overdosed wife has her stomach pumped by technicians who stand around SMOKING while they do it, upset by their casual attitude. Reading the Bible is an act of rebellion on his part; he feels there must be something more to life than four walls talking at you, kids killing each other in speeding cars, talking about the latest TV show.

Re-reading it, I thought about how it reminded me, oddly, of some aspects of Brave New World, but also how much of it has come to be. Montag's boss, Beatty, tells him that it wasn't imposed, people just lost interest and the book burning firemen are there because, with houses fireproofed, it was a way for firemen to keep their jobs! English professors wander the countryside as tramps because no one was signing up for their courses any more.

How often do we hear, now, about kids' short attention spans? Even films have to be fast-moving to grab them. Some years ago I went back and re-viewed Zefirelli's exquisite Romeo And Juliet, which was big when I was growing up. Kids loved it because it actually starred real teenagers in the leads. And having seen the new, speeded-up(also wonderful) version, I concluded sadly that the Zefirelli version was just too slow for the current generation.

One thing that suggests to me that Fahrenheit 451 is set in an alternative universe is that Benjamin Fanklin is referred to, if only in fire brigade propaganda, as the first fireman instead of the founder of America's first public library.

It's also interesting to note that this is all happening  in the US- perhaps other countries still read? We'll never know, now that Ray Bradbury is gone.

I will put up a link to my readout when it's done.

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