Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury

8/10 (Really loses steam and focus over last quarter of novel)

I like this so much better now than when I read it in high school.  It’s really a pretty complex book with some difficult prose, probably a little much for a teenager to truly appreciate.  It is terrific but sort of loses steam in the last quarter or so, after Montag goes on the lam.  Before then there is excellent social and cultural commentary hidden throughout the dialogue of Clarisse, Millie, Beatty and Faber.

I’m not sure about Bradbury’s assertion (alluded to in one of Beatty’s speeches and elaborated upon in Bradbury’s “Coda”) that political correctness is the beginning censorship that results in book-burning. . . it seems like a convenient justification for avoiding compassion and empathy.  But overall I am mightily impressed with the work.  It’s remarkable that this is the same Bradbury who would go onto write the relatively simpler (but still equally compelling) prose of The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man.

One of the things I was most impressed with was how accurately he predicted the stupifying effects of television and the dumbing down of mass culture.  Montag’s exchange with Millie, Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Boyle (p. 94-95) is masterful in its depiction of their short attention spans, emotional detachment, and refusal to even think for one second about a weighty topic.  It’s also a pretty prescient portrayal of the kind of titillating-yet-vacuous content that has become pervasive in our society.  Check it out, it sort of reminds you of “Fantasia” on bad acid:

On one wall a woman smiled and drank orange juice simultaneously.  How does she do both at once? thought Montag, insanely.  In the other walls an x-ray of the same woman revealed the contracting journey of the refreshing beverage on its way to her delighted stomach!  Abruptly the room took off on a rocket flight into the clouds, it plunged into a lime-grean sea where blue fish ate red and yellow fish.  A minute later, Three White Cartoon Clowns chopped off each other’s limbs to the accompaniment of immense incoming tides of laughter.  Two minutes more and the room whipped out of town to the jet cars wildly circling an arena, bashing and backing up and bashing each other again.  Montag saw a number of bodies fly in the air.

“Millie did you see that?”

“I saw it, I saw it!” 93-94

Original Review

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