What Sucks About Fahrenheit 451 (Aside from the Obvious): An Ode to Banned Book Week


451It’s Banned Book Week this week, so I thought we should talk about the classic piece of Science Fiction that turned banned books into burned books: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

So, let’s  think about that book. Not the beginning, where they are burning books, and sending out mechanical hounds to find anyone who would dare hold a slim volume of poetry. We always think about that. Let’s think about the end, when Montag finds the group of revolutionary exiles who memorize books in order to keep them all alive.

There, Montag is assigned Ecclesiastes… which I think is kind of unfair. It is one of the shortest books in the bible, after all. I mean, it’s not John 3 or Obadiah (both come in at under 500 words), but it’s certainly not Leviticus.

This, of course, leads us to a very horrifying thought. Someone had to memorize Leviticus. There is some poor soul out there that knows exactly how to sacrifice sheep of any sex, and what happens when you accidentally touch something unclean and become aware of your guilt later on in life. There is someone who had to memorize archaic forms of measurement that no one understands anymore.

And, that sucks.

But what sucks even more than that is, say, you were assigned Harry Potter.  You would have to recite it every hour of every day for everyone because in this world, you would need a little magic escapism to deal with the fact the government habitually lights things on fire. Meanwhile, the pitiful sod that got Jack Kerouac is sitting beside the campfire, desperately trying to keep a stream of conscious narrative that is knocked hither and tither by drugs and alcohol in his brain, unable to recite the novel to practice because no one wants to hear it. After all, only liars say they like Kerouac*.

Basically, the world of Fahrenheit 451 really blows, but the solution to the problems of Fahrenheit 451 sort of blows more.

So, to save all of us that pain, let’s be sure we celebrate Banned Book Week for what it is, a week to embrace all the truly great novels people felt were too subversive to how they felt society should be run. Let’s celebrate the books that celebrate the diversity in the way all of us individuals think, and thank god we don’t have to start underground rebel units of book memorizers just to preserve the basic right of freedom of thought.

banned books

 

*This opinion may reflect the author’s opinion, but it is in no way objectively true. However, to the author, this is absolutely true.

(Thanks to my editor, David, for this idea. May we forever find things to love and make fun of in science fiction.)


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