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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 (original 1953; edition 2001)

by Ray Bradbury

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Zeruhur's review
In Bradbury leggiamo la denuncia sulla possibile negativa evoluzione della nostra società e purtroppo va detto che a distanza di cinquant’anni molto si è avverato. Nel mondo di Fahrenheit 451 non è stato un atto deliberato dello Stato, atto al controllo delle masse, che ha proibito l’uso del mezzo culturale. La società stessa si è posta quel tabù, cercando la semplificazione, la massificazione, nel tentativo di non creare individui infelici che si sentissero diversi, ha gradualmente abbandonato ogni forma di cultura. Lo Stato in questo scenario ha soltanto legittimato un dato di fatto, istituendo i corpi di vigili del fuoco, qui impegnati ad ardere e non a estinguere il fuoco. Si viene così a creare una dottrina dell’anti-cultura, esemplificata nella figura del capitano di Montag: i libri non vengono bruciati in quanto tali, ma per quello che contengono, riflessioni di uomini morti, storie di evasione, tutto l’universo che i libri rappresentano. Chi si avvicina alla lettura, dice il capitano in un delirio di semplificazione, si sente superiore a coloro che non leggono. Perciò la società di Fahrenheit 451 ha deciso di eliminare ogni fonte possibile di diversità, per lasciare i cittadini in una beata incoscienza, che non li rende informati neanche sull’apocalittica guerra che si svolge nelle pagine finali del romanzo.
Dall’altra parte, gli uomini-libro, coloro che hanno mandato a memoria i libri in una società che non permetteva loro di possederli, non si sentono affatto degli eletti. “Tu non sei importante” dice Granger, un uomo-libro, a Montag nelle pagine finali. Anche quando i libri esistevano, aggiunge, la gente li ha rifuggiti creando il sistema attuale. Però è importante che in qualche modo il messaggio che essi contengono venga preservato, lasciando la possibilità di essere scoperto. Quindi Fahreinheit 451 non è un mero inno all’importanza della lettura, ma un inno alla possibilità di scelta, alla libertà. ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
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It's a classic for a reason. Well done. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
This better than 50 year old dystopian tale of censorship & book burning has the distinction of being on most of the world's banned book lists, as well as on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. It's a classic, but nonetheless still very relevant in our own time. Guy is a Fireman, & in this world, they don't put OUT fires, they start them. They are book burners, when a society has been taken over completely by earbuds called Seashells, & interactive TV's called "parlor families" that seem to actually take the place of real flesh & blood ones. Their answer to drug overdoses is to put a snakelike tube down the stomach & flush it out, as well as recycle all of the blood in someone's body. They literally will drain the toxic blood & replace it with "clean" blood from someone else.

There are those who remember what vast knowledge books have, & the crime is to be caught READING them, not to simply own them. If you have not yet read this "should have read" classic, it's what I would classify as a quick read, because the story is so mesmerizing & disturbing that it goes very fast. ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Books are dangerous. They’re full of ideas that make people think about the world, feel passion, and perhaps act out. That’s not good for society; it causes conflict, uprising, and interference with the status quo. People who read and think scare people who don’t, so most citizens have happily given up the right to decide what to think about and now let the government fill their brains with constant loud mindless entertainment. This managed input has equalized society; nobody feels inferior to anyone else and there’s no conflict anymore. Dull minds, constant entertainment, and conformity make society run smoothly.

Guy Montag works as a fireman. He burns books at night while his wife sits in her parlor and listens to inane media shows at high volume. But Clarice, the teenager next door, is different. Her family sits around and talks. They discuss things and they laugh with each other. Guy wonders what they talk about as he watches his wife talk to the strangers on TV and pop sleeping pills…

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 presents a possible frightening future in which intellectual pursuits and nonconformity are deemed dangerous and subversive. It’s been more than half a century since Fahrenheit 451 was published and we’ve seen censorship laws actually become looser over the years and the advent of the internet has brought on the current “information age.” But that doesn’t make Fahrenheit 451 irrelevant because it’s about much more than literary censorship. It’s about freedom of speech and individual rights. It’s about thinking for ourselves and what might happen if we let the government tell us what we can see, hear, or own.

Fahrenheit 451 resonates with me on so many levels. First of all, it’s just superbly written. I love Bradbury’s intense style which translates especially well on Blackstone Audio’s version read by Christopher Hurt. Here he describes the show that Mrs Montag watches all day:

A great thunderstorm of sound gushed from the walls. Music bombarded him at such an immense volume that his bones were almost shaken from their tendons; he felt his jaw vibrate, his eyes wobble in his head. He was a victim of concussion. When it was all over he felt like a man who had been thrown from a cliff, whirled in a centrifuge and spat out over a waterfall that fell and fell into emptiness and emptiness and never — quite — touched — bottom — never — never — quite — no not quite — touched — bottom ... and you fell so fast you didn't touch the sides either... never... quite... touched... anything.

The thunder faded. The music died.

"There," said Mildred. And it was indeed remarkable. Something had happened. Even though the people in the walls of the room had barely moved, and nothing had really been settled, you had the impression that someone had turned on a washing-machine or sucked you up in a gigantic vacuum. You drowned in music and pure cacophony. He came out of the room sweating and on the point of collapse. Behind him, Mildred sat in her chair and the voices went on again…

Second, I share Bradbury’s ardent passion for knowledge and learning. The thought of lost information, burned books, mindless entertainment, meaningless small-talk, conformity, and intellectual malaise makes my stomach twist. I don’t believe that we’re in danger of the anti-intellectualism that Bradbury posits, but still his ideas get me riled up.

Third, I’ll admit that I’m a rebel at heart. While I recognize that obeying laws and paying taxes are a necessary part of living in a well-functioning society, I feel mostly distrustful and suspicious when the government increases taxes, takes over more functions in society, tells us what to believe, and tries to revoke constitutional freedoms. In this context, Bradbury’s possible future doesn’t seem so impossible anymore.

I’m pleased that my school district assigns Fahrenheit 451 in its middle-school curriculum, though I find it a bit ironic that some publishers have edited the language to make it more “suitable” for teenagers. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
During much of my adult life, I've questioned whether I actually ever read this book as a teenager. I remember reading The Illustrated Man, and I felt certain that we were also assigned this book to read. But I couldn't ever remember the details of the plot. So recently I spotted it at the library while scouring the shelves for new reading materials, and decided to pick it up. I read it in a day while home sick from work, and I will tell you that it did not help my mood. I would say that it is very definitely a bad thing that the dystopian society Bradbury describes in this novel closely resembles actual society today. I suppose this could also be said for any number of dystopian novels written in the early to mid twentieth century. The story, while gripping and well written, depressed me to no end. And I'm still not sure if I ever read it before or not. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
I finally got around to reading this book. It sure is a classic. I loved how concise the novel was: it basically screamed "This is my point! Don't ever forget!" which is directly in line with the author's character. This type of novel is what bolsters my reluctance to mobe to ebooks... what will we lose when we surrender physical properties for digital ones that are easily manipulated and controlled? ( )
1 vote QueenAlyss | Mar 27, 2014 |
This book left me with a lot of mixed feelings and thoughts, but isn't that what a great book is supposed to do? I don't think Bradbury thought out his world completely (in a world where no one has read the Bible, would people still go on talking about Jesus Christ and God?), but it was a great book, nonetheless.

I would have to read more of his work and familiarize myself with his writing a bit more to pass judgment on his writing style. I can't tell if his method of being sometimes in his protagonist's head and sometimes out of it, and sometimes projecting into a possible future, and then coming back to the present (in terms of the novel) was a technique he used only for this book, or if it's a technique he uses in all his writing. It was something I had to adjust to while I was reading the book, but I think I managed.

If you've seen the Francois Truffaut movie, the book is very different from the movie, and it ends differently, as well. I was familiar with the movie before I read the book, and I was surprised at how different they are from each other.

I found the "Afterword" and the "Coda" and interview at the end of the book to be very useful in understanding the author and his attitude toward criticisms of his work, and censorship and political correctness. Some people might be offended. I think Mr. Bradbury raises very good points in his discussion of censorship and political correctness, both in terms of the topic of the novel, "Fahrenheit 451" and in the material at the end of the book. ( )
  harrietbrown | Mar 27, 2014 |
This book has been on my To-Read list for such a long time, and now I finally got round to reading it.
This is such a good book, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loved the writing style, the plot, the character development.
It's a really good book, I'm so glad I picked it up this month.

Full review on my blog http://www.thebooktower.webs.com ( )
  bookish92 | Mar 20, 2014 |
This was a fantastically frightening book written in the same spirit as 1984. This a must read for lovers of dystopian tales. ( )
  khaalidah | Mar 14, 2014 |
My favorite book of all times. Terrifyingly prophetic and beautiful. I can't do it any justice by further review. ( )
  lindseyrivers | Mar 8, 2014 |
It was good but I was not jumping for joy with this book. It has a nice message but I think it's just wasn't for me. Half of the time I don't know what's happening. I felt like the book has this heavy and hot atmosphere (maybe because of all the burning) which may be effective but a bit uncomfortable for me. I did like the end though when Montag meets the other "authors". It was actually pretty sad, a world without books, having to burn a book. ( )
  krizia_lazaro | Mar 5, 2014 |
I appreciated his insistence that the road to censorship is initially paved with apathy. In the interview with Bradbury at the end of the 50th anniversary edition, this work is compared to 1984 - while the stringent enforcement by the firemen is reminiscent of Orwell's world, I think this future is rather alike Huxley's Brave New World where the population is intentionally distracted by the overstimulation of pleasurable nonsense and happy pills. I love his prose. "Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'll drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories." ( )
  dandelionroots | Feb 28, 2014 |
It was a pleasure to burn. ( )
  JK135 | Feb 24, 2014 |
Fahrenheit 451 has some merit where it correctly predicts a future were we're overloaded by facts to such a degree we fail to *understand* anything. Some of it is quite chilling. The story itself is not very engaging, the main character is unbelievable in almost all the actions he takes and the great literature that is being lost seem to consist mainly of quotable quotes from great authors wielded as snappy oneliners.

I am dissapointed. I had hoped for more. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
The title is very familiar, one of those ones everybody vaguely recalls from their school days, even if the content probably isn’t as well-known. Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian science fiction novel in which the “firemen” of an unnamed American city spend their time starting fires to burn books rather than putting fires out. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman who has been secretly hiding books out of curiosity and is developing a niggling feeling that burning them is wrong. (Incidentally, the first draft was titled “The Fireman,” which would have been a much better title, since Bradbury was misinformed – 451 degrees fahrenheit is not exactly the temperature at which paper ignites.)

I’d only read a few of Bradbury’s short stories before, in high school, but I barely remembered them. I was surprised to find that his writing style was much more elaborate and literary than I expected:

The concussion knocked the air across and down the river, turned the men over like dominoes in a line, blew the water in lifting sprays, and blew the dust and made the trees above them mourn with a great wind passing away south… in that instant he saw the city, instead of the bombs, in the air. They had displaced each other. For another of those impossible instants the city stood, rebuilt and unrecognisable, taller than it had ever hoped or strived to be, taller than man had built it, erected at last in gouts of shattered concrete and sparkles of torn metal into a mural hung like a reversed avalanche, a million colours, a million oddities, a door where a window should be, a top for a bottom, a side for a back, and then the city rolled over and fell down dead.

As a mid-20th century science fiction writer I’d already pigeon-holed Bradbury in alongside authors like Heinlein or Asimov; he’s actually much more like Philip K. Dick, and that may go some way towards explaining why I didn’t enjoy Fahrenheit 451 all that much.

Which is not to say that I don’t admire it, and don’t think it was an important novel at an important time in history (it was written at the height of McCarthyism). I just found his characters a little wooden – certainly too fond of long, wordy monologues – and his world a bit stiff. It certainly feels much more like a story servicing a concept than a concept which gave birth to a rich and vibrant story. But it’s an important novel of the 20th century, and not particularly long, and is worth reading. ( )
2 vote edgeworth | Feb 21, 2014 |
A great book that I found as haunting and memorable as Orwell's 1984. I loved the bleak, dystopian setting, the poetic prose and the tension throughout the book. My only grumble is that the book is not long enough. I really think that the characters could have been padded out more. ( )
  martensgirl | Feb 13, 2014 |
A good subject that makes people think. The writing was very good in places but too wordy. Not the best written book. ( )
  jamesfallen | Feb 7, 2014 |
I read this a long time ago-I'm older than had-and liked it very much. Bradbury also wrote "The Martian Chronicle", which started as unrelated short stories and ended up as books. ( )
  jmcalli | Feb 6, 2014 |
It's been quite a while since I read this but I really loved it! ( )
  briealeida | Feb 6, 2014 |
In rare instances, I think a book will be better if it was longer. This is one of them.

I am giving props to ‘Fahrenheit 451’ for its many themes that are meaningful (in a warning kind of way), delivered in lyrical words, and painted pictures that are foreboding and too close to home. I also felt it falls short due to its almost too convenient ending. With the ending in sight, only so few pages left in my hand, BOM! – literally.

Published in 1953, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ is a dystopian novel set in an undefined future in an undefined city, presumed to be in America. It is a time when books are banned/burned by firemen, and book owners are thrown in jail. A book is akin to a loaded gun, providing one with an intellectual edge and knowledge over others, which is a risk to society. Also books provoke emotions, and thus potential discomfort. Can’t have that, right? Laws are put in place, and book burning started. Excess government.

The people are instead entertained by wall size TV screens called the parlor, that are always loud and dominating your senses, and when not watching the parlor, they put in seashell ear pieces that stream music. In short, they are constantly plugged in. Sound familiar?

Taking walks has become a rarity. They are the odd ducks and are sure to become trouble. Those who do are tracked by the government. NSA?

In this world, people don’t ask why, only how or what. They live in a world that is dumb, controlled, but entertained, vs. choices but potentially uncomfortable. The book’s protagonist Montag, a 3rd generation fireman, ‘wakes up’ from the plugged-in world after chance brief meetings with Clarisse McClellan, a free-spirited 'old world' 17 year old who disappears from his life after 7 days. The newly discovered (and reinforced) feelings leave him hollow, confused, and despondent. He also sees and recognizes the high suicide rates. (The book gazes this topic several times but doesn’t go in any depth. The fact that Montag has had doubting thoughts before Clarisse is hinted but not explored.)

From a chance meeting a year ago, Montag looks for and finds ex-English Professor, Faber, who teaches him what makes life whole and how books play a role in it: “Number one, as I said, quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.” In the end, Montag is a hunted man, where he finds new literary alliances, awaiting the Phoenix to raise.

A quote on Burning vs. Preservation – the awakening of Montag:
“The sun burned every day. It burned Time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burned things with the firemen and the sun burned Time, that mean that everything burned!
One of them had to stop burning. The sun wouldn’t, certainly. So it looked as if it had to be Montag and the people he had worked with until a few short hours ago. Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people’s heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from months, silverfish, rust and dry rot, and men with matches. The world was full of burning of all types and sizes. Now the guild of the asbestos-weaver must open shop very soon.” ( )
1 vote varwenea | Feb 1, 2014 |
English teacher my sophmore year had us read this. It was an eye opening book. Have read it multiple times since. ( )
  Penny01 | Feb 1, 2014 |
A great read, beautifully written, although I feel the ending betrays its origins as a number of disparate short stories and is unsatisfying as a conclusion. However, the journey is fascinating. Montag is a frustrating protagonist, but his point of view illustrates the limitations created by his narrow society - he can't be other than he is: short-sighted, shallow, emotionally blunt, bewildered by the bigger ideas he can sense but struggles to grapple with. As Beatty puts it - we're not created equal, we're made equal. It's a race to the intellectual bottom.

The details of media, even technology (unlike so many, Bradbury assumed wireless communication), social pressure, tv society, lack of consideration of consequences, media scapegoating and pressure to conform are all horribly relevant and perhaps more terrifying now than when they were written as they're no longer far fetched - they were prophetic.

Great stuff. ( )
  imyril | Jan 28, 2014 |
The first book in English that I A. Took notes for, and B. Actually enjoyed. While quick and having a slightly inaccurate timeline, (past vs. present) This book is a good read and I would recommend it to anyone. ( )
  Chase_Plancher | Jan 23, 2014 |
It's hard to see why this novel received the accolades it did. It is not science fiction (you don't spray kerosene on a fire even in the wildest fantasy). Bradbury couldn't even paint a futuristic scenario; he took this one, ridiculous idea and plopped it down into 1940s-50s American society, that was it. He can't even build tension as in Montag as a fugitive. Bradbury claimed it was his only science fiction work. He was way off the mark. ( )
  dangnad | Jan 4, 2014 |
This was an excellent book on the potential end of all reading. Some great quotes:

"Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?"

"Mildred kicked at a book. 'Books aren't people. You read and I look all around, but there isn't anybody.'" (p. 73)

"Why should I read? What for?" (p. 73)

"Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes. I don't here those idiot bastards in your parlor talking about it." (p. 74)

"The sun burnt every day. It burnt Time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burnt things with the firemen and the sun burnt Time, that meant that everything burnt." (p.141)

This book really helped me reflect on some of my research as well as the current state of academia (and life). How often do we turn on the television or the radio. How often do readers today eat up the nonsensical writing (or sometimes borderline plagiarized writing) of fad authors while ignoring some of the most meaningful work available? Be ready to think when you read this book. ( )
  Drmeghollis | Dec 16, 2013 |
Read for Classic vs Partner Book
  shaemakay | Dec 8, 2013 |
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