Ray Bradbury

The moral right to this image is asserted by Hannah FoleyOn the way home from London today I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Big Dreamer has been pestering me to read it for ages but I’d resisted because of the weird 70s sci-fi cover on the version we own. I thought it would give me nightmares. I’m the sort of person who is capable of having nightmares in the middle of the day with my eyes open. Today I thought I’d be safe in a crowded train and as it turned out there were two rowdy stag parties in our carriage to keep me firmly grounded in reality.

Anyway, Fahrenheit 451 is brilliant, hence why I’m blogging about it. You’ve probably all read it and are busy rolling your eyes at the computer screen. You’ll just have to skip this post if that’s the case – sorry!

Fahrenheit 451 is about a future America where books are banned and Firemen don’t put out fires, they burn books. The main character is a man called Guy Montag and the story follows his gradual disillusionment with the way of life he’s been living and his journey to become free of it. When Montag goes searching for answers to his questions he is told by another character, “No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored lots of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” 

Bradbury is asking us to look at life in all its marvellous and fullest detail, and to keep deliberately looking, because for those who do, not only is the world a richer place, but the dystopia presented in the book could never happen. Apparently Bradbury once said that Fahrenheit 451 is not about the state but about people. As human beings we have such a capacity to really touch life at its most wonderful but when we become disconnected from “good rain and black loam”, the opposite is only horror. Not only are we to look and wonder at life but we are to be creative people. Later on another character talks about the death of his grandfather, “He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” What a brilliant thing to have said about you.

I especially loved how Fahrenheit 451 goes a bit Walden at the end, with Montag’s escape from the city and into the countryside. It particularly suited my mood as we sped away from London and the capitalist ethic of the D&AD show. In the end Fahrenheit 451 is a beautiful encouragement to all of us who “step” to a different tune, however “measured or far away” it might be.

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