News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

March 18, 2012

FLASHPOINT: The burning questions of ‘Fahrenheit 451’

TERRE HAUTE — For 10 years now, with vital local support and the occasional grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vigo County Public Library has been organizing programs and facilitating discussions of a book the entire Wabash Valley community reads. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Big Read organizing committee. Needless to say, opinions in this column are mine and mine alone.) As you no doubt have heard, this year’s book selection is Ray Bradbury’s, “Fahrenheit 451.”

Born in 1920 and still writing, Ray Bradbury grew up reading in libraries from Waukegan to Tucson to Los Angeles. He remembers as a child reading about and lamenting the burning of the great library of ancient Alexandria. He never attended college. Libraries were his advanced degree schools, works of great literature his curricula. Bradbury has mined the riches of his reading and drawn on this fertile capital throughout his career. He wrote “Fahrenheit 451” in the UCLA library in nine days of intensive work. He fed dimes into a rental typewriter in the basement. At 10 cents a half-hour, it cost him $9.80.

Bradbury wrote a story a week for over 40 years. His creative energy is amazing. The content and quality of his short stories, novels, movie scripts and plays is even more so. Bradbury’s work is gripping, poetic and insightful. His fiction takes the reader on trips across the universe, from the eerie red desert landscape of Mars (“The Martian Chronicles”) to recognizable Green Town, U.S. A. (“Dandelion Wine”). However, his galactic reach and the nostalgic sentiment of hometown memories do not circumscribe or restrict Bradbury’s creative force. Reading Bradbury makes us think, gives us something to haunt our consciousness. As is true of all literature of significance, when you finish reading “Fahrenheit 451” you are not finished with what “Fahrenheit 451" is saying to you.  

“Fahrenheit 451” immerses the reader in a recognizable society. It is a dystopia too close for comfort. Based on some of his stories of the late 1940s and first published in 1953, “Fahrenheit 451” presciently conjures up reality/participatory TV shows filling wall size plasma screens, mass addiction to “superorganize[d] super-super sports” displacing individual purpose, artificial beauty dissolving authenticity, drugs clogging human feelings. Most of all, it is a world designed to eliminate questions. And questions of significance are seen as criminal acts.

This is what Bradbury’s dystopia adds up to:

“Life is immediate, … everything bang, boff and wow … More cartoons in books. More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. Impatience. … There you have it Montag. It didn’t come from the government down. … Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick. …” And perhaps Bradbury’s most damning predictive insight can be seen in how mesmerized we are today by what he calls “noncombustible data” — information without context, news reduced to scream headlines, classics of literature sliced and diced into digests and mini-series, condensations standing in for the polished masterpiece. All re-enforced by interminable drilling and testing of students, the bounding technology which encourages Twitter thought bites, and computer distractions which steal our powers of attention and comprehension.

Bang, boff, and wow … indeed.

Books are burned in “Fahrenheit 451.” But in Bradbury’s view “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Reading works of literary quality and demanding non-fiction continues to decline in this country. A fire bell in the night? Alarmist concerns or a nightmare unfolding? Do we already live in the world Bradbury describes? If we do, do we adjust to it? Resist it? Ignore it? 

For the 2012 Big Read, read Ray Bradbury’s troubling, question-provoking, very combustible novel, “Fahrenheit 451.” Discuss it with others. Program schedules of related events are available at the Vigo County Public Library downtown. Hurry. This library is only one of two remaining in our community. Three have been closed. Ray Bradbury could write a good story on this development and what it means.

— Gary Daily

Terre Haute

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Flashpoint
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Argentina to Face Germany in World Cup Final Kim Kardashian Hits Up Valentino Show in Paris Israeli Offensive Escalates in Gaza Attack Raw: 10-year Sentence for Ex-New Orleans Mayor Service Held for 200 Whose Bodies Went Unclaimed Police: Prostitute Accused in Overdose Death "Hotwives" Spoofs Reality TV Raw: Rocket Explodes Over Israeli Wedding World's Tallest Water Slide: See It for Yourself Sterling Testifies in Los Angeles Clippers Trial Weaver Reprises Ripley Role for 'Alien' Game Froome Crashes Out on Bumpy 5th Tour Stage Raw: World's Tallest Water Slide Opens Thursday Dodgers Found Partly Responsible in Fan Beating APNewsBreak: Different Attackers in Benghazi? Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss Fans Dying to Be Near Jazz Greats Four Kids, Two Adults Shot Dead Near Houston Obama: 'Photo Ops' Won't Solve Border Crisis Raw: Fans Gather for Argentina-Netherlands Match
NDN Video
Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino Photographic 'Proof' That LeBron Is Leaving Miami - @TheBuzzeronFOX Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel Pilot buys pizzas for travelers delayed by storm Klose nets record, Germany rout Brazil 7-1 'Purrmanently Sad Cat' Looks Adorably Sad All the Time Pharrell 'humbled' by success of mega-hit 'Happy' Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Jennifer Lawrence Facepalms Emma Watson Athletes Bare All for ESPN Magazine's Body Issue Raw: Brazil Fans Leaving Stadium Before Half Andi Dorfman Walks Out During the Rose Ceremony 5 Firework Fails for July 4th Justin Bieber Catches Tom Hanks Getting Down, Showing ‘How We Do It Big shoes to fill for Brazil ahead of Germany clash Man's 'Potato Salad' Plea Takes Off on Kickstarter
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity