Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fahrenheit 451

Today was the one time a year where we read a book and watch the movie.  It's a challenge to find that combination but so far since we've decided to do this we've been successful.  We didn't like the movie as much as the book but felt still that it was a decent movie.  It just didn't have the same impact as Bradbury's writing.  We thought the absence of the mechanical hound was a gaping hole in the movie, we missed Faber and I can tell you that I certainly didn't expect the movie to be a love story - with Clarissa!

The discussion was peculiar in that we didn't discuss the book itself as much as how we felt it applied to today and how prescient the writing was.  It was written in 1951 as science fiction so the "little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight" that we know today as "ear buds" were fabrications. "Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows" - sound bites we call them now.  Montag visited the bank "which was open all night every night with robot tellers" - we call them ATMs. It was the beginning of the Korean Conflict, yet he wrote of "quick wars" which we've seen ever since Yugoslavia.

The SciFi part is rather Francis Bacon'ish you have to admit.  But it was the social part that dominated our conversation - those that decide and those that abide.  He nailed so many social ills - the preoccupation with entertainment and the entertainment centers - "The televisor is real. It is immediate it has dimension.  it tells you what to think." And "That's all we live for, isn't it?  For pleasure, for titillation?"

We talked about the simplification of education - "School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected...Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work."  Montag realized through Clarissa that "People don't talk about anything." When he finally escapes to the river, Granger tells him "But you can't make people listen.  They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them."  And of course, the big theme was eliminating conflict so that everyone is "happy" - the idea that book burners are custodians of peace of mind.

We talked about how current and relevant to today this book is and how we see an incurable widening gap between the haves and the have-nots - them that gots, get.  We also talked about how education is not a level playing field.  Joanne expressed frustration at the school her grandchildren are in where grades are given when not earned.

Bradbury was passionate about books and libraries.  He wrote this in nine days, on library typewriters for 10 cents a half hour.  It's the smallest book we've ever read in terms of pages but possibly the most powerful.