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Monday, April 8, 2013

Prophet Ray Bradbury

These final weeks of the 2012-2013 school term, my high school literature class is reading Fahrenheit 451, written by Ray Bradbury in 1953.

A few prophetic excerpts from the novel:
“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of the other; then all are happy, for there are not mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.

[…]

“You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country above all? People want to be happy....

[…]

“Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.  Serenity...Peace...
(58-60).
The novel also contains this passage:
"It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals."
[above citations from the edition published by Ballantine Books, New York, 1987]

We are already living in the dystopia portrayed in Bradbury's prophetic novel.

In the late 1950s, Bradbury himself made the following observation about another aspect of the novel, that aspect being the alienation of people by the media:
In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.
Have you read Fahrenheit 451? If not — or if you have not recently read it — I invite you to read this short novel, available in all formats: hard copy, Kindle, and audio. 

I highly recommend this book — worth your time.

Ray Bradbury, the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream, on the topics of Fahrenheit 451, his favorite books, and life:


Full version of the above video is HERE.

[the Ray Bradbury web site]


[above photo from Find A Grave]

42 comments:

  1. I read it many years ago. It's worth reading again, I'm sure.

    I wonder what Bradbury would have thought as he observed, as I have, young couples, sitting across a table in a little romantic Italian restaurant, not holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes, but clutching their smart phones, texting gawd know whom, and ignoring each other and their immediate environment.

    They live in a world of ones and zeroes.

    "It is an oft-repeated maxim that anything that existed when you were born is mundane and old-hat, anything that was invented in the first third of your life is exciting and novel, anything invented in the second third of your life is scary and incomprehensible, and anything invented in the last third of your life is an abomination of science run amok and is bent on corrupting our children, destroying civilization and — Hey! Get off my lawn, you kids!"







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  2. Ray Bradbury was a visionary far ahead of his time.

    It is a testament to his non-ideological libertarianism that his most famous book was first latched upon by by rightwing-fearing liberals, and now leftwing-fearing conservatives.

    There's a lesson in there, but too many are too dense or obstinate to grasp it. Pick your flavor, but government tyranny is still tyranny.


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  3. It has been a very long time since I read that book, but I might have to get another copy and do it again.

    Those quotes are amazing. Also his observation of the woman, man and dog.

    My hubby and I have long lamented how smart phones in particular have ruined relationships.

    Go out to eat, to the movies, zoo, anywhere. Watch people.

    Couples supposedly on dates, families supposedly out for a "family" outing.

    What are they doing? Staring into their smart phones, texting, browing the internet, whatever.

    They are almost oblivious to each other, might as well have stayed home.

    Same for people in cars, heads and eyes in the smart phone, missing the beauty of nature that they are driving past, missing real conversation with others in the vehicle.

    Personal interaction is getting difficult for some people, they don't know how to communicate face-to-face, especially young children who have grown up in this atmosphere.

    What a shame.

    Debbie
    Right Truth
    http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

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  4. I read it when in college. Funny isn't it..the left said all of this was absurd, who would allow such things. Now they are major sponsors.

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  6. I have an ambivalent reaction to "Fahrenheit 451" since it was the film marked Truffaut jumping the shark.

    Still I think it's a bit misinterpreted and less sage than it is given credit.

    It does make me think of Akhmatova carrying Requiem in her head as it was composed over many years.

    "INSTEAD OF A PREFACE

    In the awful days of the Yezhovschina I passed seventeen months in the outer waiting line of the prison visitors in Leningrad. Once, somebody ‘identified’ me there. Then a woman, standing behind me in the line, which, of course, never heard my name, waked up from the torpor, typical for us all there, and asked me, whispering into my ear (all spoke only in a whisper there):

    'Could one ever describe this?'
    And I answered - 'I can.'
    It was then that
    something like a smile slid across what had previously
    been just a face."

    A certain dedication to the literary mode. But the tyranny she experienced is less pervasive than the tyranny of the market which has made us the victims of comfort in large parts of America.
    Other parts aren't so comfortable. I suggest Michael Harrington's The Other America which has dropped out of favor for being a little too far left but much more prophetic than anything Bradbury wrote.

    I remember a short story I read back in the day about a man who decides to take a walk one evening.
    Cops pull up.
    "Is there a problem with your view screen?"
    Then they arrest him.

    Might have been Bradbury but he missed it. We are very willing to be tied to our view screens. The "free market"(LMFAO) wants consumers not ideas.
    You can see how it's had its way in the arts and everything else.

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  7. Since I am a reading fanatic this has always been one of my all time favorite books. I enjoyed the movie, too.


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  8. "...jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down."

    Fantastic!!!

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  9. The signs of our postmodern radical individualism are everywhere. Our post-modern politics are naught but attempts at containing our "fear" of being harassed by "others", be they neighbors, gays, activist groups, churches, whatever... to keep them all at a "safe distance". This is why we all seem to embrace the false ideology of "tolerance"... so as to enable the government to keep others from getting too close.

    And so we praise our neighbor's culture, but "block out" all references that define(s) the dangerous cultural "differences" that exist and cling to false notions of "shared" universal" values and rights. There are none.

    These are the books that we have burned... mentally (repressed).

    I love these quotes, AOW... they are extremely prophetic:

    “We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of the other; then all are happy, for there are not mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.

    […]

    “You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country above all? People want to be happy....

    […]

    “Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity...Peace... (58-60).

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  10. The "Big Others" injunction to humanity is no longer, "Thou Shalt NOT." It is no longer an ascetic injunction to "refrain" from experiencing pleasure. It is instead an order to "Enjoy!"... but if you aren't "enjoying yourself" their is "something WRONG with YOU!" Everything is permitted and so it MUST be enjoyed, for the "dangerous" element has been identified by experts and scientifically "removed".

    So enjoy sex, without pregnancy. Enjoy sodomy without disease. Enjoy marriage with any binding commitment. Enjoy life w/o any requirement to "work". Or is you do work so that you can choose to experience even MORE extravagant pleasures, know that there is ALWAYS a safety net their to "cushion" your fall.

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  11. Welcome to the Post-Modern era. The stern Biblical "prohibitive" Father with all His Commandments have been replaced by a lenient, but "totalitarian" "Post-Modern" secular government one... with his injunction to "Enjoy, for if you don't, you've ONLY yourself to blame. For I have baby-proofed Life in the modern world. You cannot harm yourself or be harmed. All THIS I, government, have done FOR YOU! SHAME be upon THOSE who DO NOT CHOOSE TO ENJOY!"

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  12. No longer does our government guarantee out right to "pursue" happiness. Instead, it guarantee's "happiness itself!"

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  13. One short story that EVERYONE must read:

    "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.

    Period.

    BZ

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  14. The 1966 film and the book differ:














    [DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT TO VIEW A PLOT SPOILER!]



















    Among the other notable differences with the original text is that the film adaptation dropped almost all science fiction elements present in the book (professor Faber and his portable communicator, the Mechanical Hound, the "book people's" methods of recalling texts from memory without learning them by heart). The film also does not show the war and destruction that break out as Montag flees the city, though, in the scene of Montag calling out Linda's friends on their ignorance of the world, there is mention of a war that the government is keeping from the public by disguising it as "field training" for men who have been drafted.

    Most important is the character of Clarisse McClellan. In the novel, Clarisse is a 17-year-old girl who dropped out of high school to escape its anti-intellectual tedium and ends up dead when a speeding car hits her while her family moves out of town. In the movie, Clarisse is now a 20-year-old woman who worked as an elementary school teacher, but was fired for her unorthodox teaching methods (while other teachers make the students recite their times tables, Clarisse actually engages her students in discussing subjects, an act considered hideously anti-social in this future society) and is almost caught by the Firemen (who have her and her uncle under investigation for their subversive behavior), but ends up escaping society, reuniting with Montag when he flees the city and living among the Book People. Ray Bradbury was pleased with Truffaut's decision, preferring "Clarisse stays alive" ending so much, that he adapted it for his stage production of Fahrenheit 451.


    I prefer the book to the film.

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  15. Silverfiddle said:

    ...his most famous book was first latched upon by by rightwing-fearing liberals, and now leftwing-fearing conservatives.

    Thank you for making that point!

    I think that Fahrenheit will always have relevant themes because mankind's quest for absolute power and overbearing control over others is the strongest personality trait in every human being.

    Oh, sure, some of us learn to overcome that trait -- but never completely. Furthermore, we have to LEARN to overcome that trait -- sometimes referred to as pride, BTW.

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  16. I want to emphasize that Fahrenheit 451 is available on audio CD. The audio version is quite good.

    I always have an audiobook in my car, BTW. Traffic jams and all that.

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  17. Shaw,
    Last Christmas, the two parties that Mr. AOW and I went to had several teenagers there. They were sitting in silence as they played with their iPhones! For hours! They even took their iPhones with them to the dinner table and were forever checking their devices.

    Bradbury would have had fits had he saw what I saw, I think.

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  18. Duck,
    The Other America was published about 10 years after Fahrenheit 451.

    Doesn't Michael Harrington's book present a very different theme?

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  19. Debbie,
    Personal interaction is getting difficult for some people, they don't know how to communicate face-to-face, especially young children who have grown up in this atmosphere.

    Are they turning themselves into autists?

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  20. Stanley,
    Yes, it is indeed the Post-Modern Era -- in all its many horrifying aspects.

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your taking the time to make those lengthy comments.

    I hope that you will visit again soon.

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  21. From a summary of Harrison Bergeron"

    Hazel and George are watching ballerinas dance on TV. Hazel has been crying, though she cannot remember why. She remarks on the beauty of the dance. For a few moments, George reflects on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to cover up their good looks. They have been handicapped so that TV viewers will not feel bad about their own appearance and hence will feel equally as talented and good-looking. Because of their handicaps, the dancers are not very good. A noise interrupts George’s thoughts: two of the dancers onscreen hear the noise, too; apparently, they are smart and must wear radios as well.

    Thanks, BZ... but the "Radio Handicapper" can't compete with Word Verify as a thought "frustration" technique

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  22. BZ,
    I may have read "Harrison Bergeron." However, I'll pay a visit to the library to make sure that I recall the story correctly.

    Thank you for the recommendation/reminder!

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  23. Thersites,
    I see it!

    Yes, I've read this short story, but quite a long time ago.

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  24. Off topic I know, but today I am remembering Margaret Thatcher and inviting AOW and any others interested to join me:

    http://mikesamerica.blogspot.com/

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  25. As a long time fan of science fiction, I have read much of Bradbury's work. He was always a storyteller with a way with words, but the older I get, the more I see some of his works as visionary.

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  26. Apparently the writers of the Simpsons aren't all that creative (see time 3:37)

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  27. Nothing I could possibly add to all of this.

    Life is what it is.

    Change is the only constant. We are forever in a state of flux.

    Stability is an illusion.

    Contentment is impossible, unless you're a rock. It is also undesirable. The nature of life is to GROW and CHANGE. It is always a painful process.

    Life IS Pain.

    Living is Hazardous to Your Health.

    Life is a Terminal Disease.


    Accept it, get used to it, and kwitchabitchin. ;-)

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  28. In case you didn't realize it, I just presented an excellent prescription for achieving SERENITY.

    "If you would have your life, first you must [be willing to] lose it."

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  29. "If you would have your life, first you must [be willing to] lose it."

    Not quite. In order to be free, you must be willing to sacrifice whatever grants the authorities power over you. Your life, is nothing. William Tell had to shoot an apple off his son's head. Like Titus Andronicus, could you sacrifice your children?

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  30. ...in other words, you must be prepared to sacrifice even your "serenity".

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  31. I'm just happy I was able to live in the era that I did. It's been a short, painful, glorious ride.

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  32. Ray Bradbury, truly a man of great thought and profound wisdom. This man was truly thinking outside the proverbial box.

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  33. Got my three hours in on the street today and purposely avoided a couple topics.

    Homeless -- because I've never seen so many homeless in downtown and I've begun to feel exploitative photographing them.

    Cell phone tribes -- First really gorgeous day in the city this year and they are all out there on their phones. Everything getting ready to bloom, the Public Gardens filled the duck pond ... the city looks great and sixty percent of the populace is on a cell phone --- "Hello Rangoon" (old WBCN joke).

    All the movers and shakers. Even the first day of the year for al fresco and they're on the phone. What did we ever do without them?

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  34. Duck,
    So, people are choosing to play with their electronic devices instead of enjoying a beautiful spring day. Senseless!

    Cell phone tribes? Great term!

    To their credit, my homeschoolers decided to eat lunch outside today -- a gorgeous day (albeit with pollen overload). Not a single homeschooler was looking at an electronic device.

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  35. sigh... there goes my Amazon bill, again. I have never read the book, but I have seen the movie, but it was so long ago that I don't remember much, except for the strange fireman's pole in the firehouse.

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  36. thank you for the reminder--looking to down-load it onto my new Kindle ASA I figure out how to use my new Kindle- !! (-:
    Carol-CS

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  37. Farenheit 451 should be a companion book for J.S. Mill's "On Liberty"... on the dangers of conflating the "Offensive Principle" with the "Harm Principle."

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  38. erratum -Offense for offensive, above.

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