Fahrenheit 451–Review–Part 2

So, today, I am actually going to be talking about 451, not Bradbury himself or my backstory on how I came to read 451 etc etc.  I don’t think I gave away any ruining plot points below, but if I did, you can feel free to kick me in the virtual shins.

451:

The only thing, literally, that I went into knowing about 451 was that it was a dystopian novel.  Which, also led me to give myself an internal wtf look, as most people that know me know, I love me a good dystopian tale.  And 451 really was the father of dystopian literature that has come since (see my next section of this post for further information on this opinion).  So, everything could hit me fresh.  It did.  Hit me.

I read this on my kindle, so if I misquote something or anything, it’s because I either wrote it down wrong or am relying on a faulty memory.

451 is divided into three sections.  They’re numbered.  They’re also titled.  The Hearth and the Salamander=Part 1, The Sieve and the Sand=Part 2 and Burning Bright=Part 3.  I am going to generalize a lot here, as I don’t want to spoil the plot too much.  The main character is Guy Montag, and the book centers around him.

I feel that Part 1 could really be called “Montag’s Awakening”.  Montag is a fireman, and in this future, firemen burn books.  All houses have a fireproof covering so there is no fear of a house burning anymore.  Firemen have been converted into book burners.  He meets a neighbor girl one day who is different than others.  She’s 17, her name is Clarisse, and she doesn’t race about getting the newest thrill.  She wanders.  She strolls.  She observes leaves in the wind, holds dandelions under chins to see if someone’s in love, and really looks at people.  Her uncle tells her a lot about the past, a time when people had front porches, that they’d sit on, that they have stopped making front porches because it might encourage people to slow down a moment and actually reflect on stuff.  The tendrils she places in Montag slowly expand and creep past his awesome love for the flame on the books, for his feeling of excitement.  The tendrils light up and Montag is able to fully see just how dark and ashy and gray his life really is.  He’s married to a woman named Mildred, and I think his life could be summed up by the fact that he asks her one night how they met.  Neither of them can remember.  He feels that if she died, he wouldn’t even mourn.  Mildred always is in the parlor, watching a 3 walled tv, and calls the people on it “family”.  She is pestering Montag to get the 4th wall put in, even though they just put in the 3rd 2 months prior.  Basically, Montag starts to see in himself what Clarisse tells him “It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not”.  During this time, he has to burn a house down and the woman refuses to leave her books.  She even pulls out a match to do the job herself when Montag hesitates and attempts to get her to leave.  He begins to wonder.  And he steals a book while there.  During this section, two things are hinted at but not revealed.  Montag looks up at his vent a few times with vague thoughts of what’s up there, and he also thinks occasionally of an incident involving a conversation with a gentleman at a park the prior year.  Bradbury never tells us though during this section what is behind the vent and what was the conversation all about.

Part 2, The Sieve and the Sand, is titled because Montag eventually begins attempting to stuff information from books into his brain in the hopes that something might stick but feels it’s like pouring sand into a sieve and hoping some stays.  And here’s where discussing might get a little tricky as this is where the spoiling might happen if I don’t walk the fine line.  This part could be called “Montag’s Transformation”.  This is where we discover that maybe Clarisse didn’t _cause_ the explosions beginning to happen in Montag’s mind and his life, but might have just teased out something that was already slowly formenting in Montag.  In the first section, towards the beginning of the book, Montag comes home to discover that Mildred has taken all her sleeping pills.  There are men that come out to clean out her stomach and then pump new blood into her.  They basically tell Montag they get a lot of these calls, and it’s not worth it to send real doctors out on them anymore.  Montag ends up thinking that his wife is two people.  There is the happy, watch the parlor walls all day Mildred, and the nighttime Mildred who is depressed and suicidal.  Mildred also likes to take out the “beetle” (their mode of transportation in 451) and drive reallllyy fast.  I felt like Bradbury might have used the discussion of Mildred’s dichotomous self to highlight that Montag himself had a dichotomy hidden until Clarisse.  There was the have fun, find it exciting fireman, and the confused, apathetic, depressed other Montag.  Montag’s boss comes and talks to him and tells him that they basically know he’s stolen the book and that every fireman eventually does something similiar.  Beatty (boss) tells him that they allow the fireman 24 hours to turn it in before coming to burn it.  Beatty says that it’s good for them to take a look to understand further why they’re doing it.  The plot furthers from here, brilliantly carrying it towards Montag’s complete rebirth through flame.

Part 3, Burning Bright, is basically the conclusion.  My choice to say Montag is reborn through the flame, also came because one of the characters at the end talks about the phoenix.  It ends up that between the cities, old retired professors and educated people have been memorizing books and figuring out how to recall even something they’ve read once so that eventually all the books can be written back down.  They all have specific ones memorized and all know which ones others know.  I didn’t like Part 3.  I felt that the dialogue became way too expository.  I didn’t feel that a person would talk the way one of the end characters does, or at that length.  It was probably the only part of the book that I didn’t like the writing on.  I also did not like the speedy way Bradbury tied everything up.  It was like this beautiful book, beautiful story of a man’s self awakening amidst a world that no longer allowed slow thought and reading was suddenly just finished.  I felt like a publisher told Bradbury “Hey Ray, you got 2 days to finish that book before we’re not gonna take it anymore” and Bradbury slapped the ending all together quick.

I am a person that sometimes rereads books.  As I think I said in my blog about Wuthering Heights.  I honestly don’t think I’d read 451 again, or if I did, I’d probably just read the first 2 sections and skip the last.  I loved it, and will be buying an actual bound copy to keep on my shelf (so that it can be burned one day if necessary I guess), but can’t see myself yearning to pick it up again and re read it.  However, I would recommend it to most anyone, as we will discuss tomorrow, just for the eerie “predictions” in the book.  It makes me wonder what Bradbury thought in the last 20 years of his life about technology advancements, since the book was written in 1953.  Which makes it the same age as my parents.  Weird.

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451.

I originally had picked Middlemarch by George Eliot to use for this entry.  I was about 1/5 of the way through it on June 6th, when I happened to see that Ray Bradbury, at the age of 91 had passed away.

Instead of calling, texting, or emailing Dave, I did what any self respecting 2012 friend does.  I posted on my fb wall (timeline? what are we supposed to call it now?) about it, and that I’d be reading 451 for this entry instead.  Dave and I, being good 2012 friends, proceeded to have the entire conversation in regards to the entry right there on the wall/timeline.  Writing about this now, I find it oddly fitting that we did do that for Fahrenheit 451.

451 was listed by Alice Hoffman as her #2 book in The Top Ten.  On a weird note, I actually began listening to one of Hoffman’s books tonight while doing the dishes.

Once again, 451 (I am shortening it to this from here on, as I can sometimes get a little lazy about words like Fahrenheit), was a book I had never read.  Again, when people brought it up as a book they had read or that it was one of the greats etc, I would paste that “Oh of course I’m literate, I always have a book in my hand” look on my face while inside I would berate myself for not reading it yet.  As Dave has already read 451, I would have gotten to it, probably fairly soon to push off reading books that I don’t feel quite like I do about My Antonia (see here for a full explanation of the Willa Cather Impasse from Dave’s point of view) but don’t particularly feel like reading.

By the way, I apologize for giving all this backstory, but I find for me, the experience behind the reading interesting, so I include it all for you to enjoy (suffer) through.  Also, unlike Dave, I don’t have a personal blog at this moment so maybe I’m secretly trying to pretend I do.  Okay, back to our program.

I am going to be breaking Bradbury and Fahrenheit up into 3 blog posts, as I have become quite wordy on the whole thing, and I feel that to do Bradbury justice I _need_ to be lengthy for a memorial and also because of the comparisons between Bradbury’s “predictions” in 451 and the reality of today, to do them justice, I need three blog posts.  (sorry Dave for not discussing this with you previously).  Today’s post will be about Bradbury himself.  Tomorrow’s post will be about the plot line and my thoughts on said plot line.  Saturday’s post will be about the influence I can see of 451 on current literature today (especially in YA literature) and items Bradbury talked about in 451 that have probably an even stronger eerie resonance than they did even ten years ago.  I also will put in quotations where these things are described.

For information on Bradbury, I went straight to raybradbury.com, as that seemed the most likely place to receive information.  Bradbury, as mentioned above, was 91.  The staggering thing for me, isn’t necessarily his age, as I come from a family of long lifers and married a man from a family of long lifers, but that he was writing FOR SEVENTY YEARS.  It’s weird to see publication dates for him from the forties.  I’m not entirely sure why that bent my mind out of shape, other than maybe because it shows someone that figured out early on what made them tick, started doing it and NEVER STOPPED.  Quoting straight from raybradbury.com;

“In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote: In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior. ”

I just think that holds so true for anyone that finds the one thing that does it for them and figures out a way to live that way.  Bradbury has won numerous awards, published over fifty books, and multitudes of short stories, but for me, the thing that makes me….proud?  happy? that a man like him lived on this earth is what he said above.

It’s sad when someone who has worked their way into our heads, into our culture and through that into our hearts dies.  I find this death more impacting to me than Michael Jackson.  Call me odd.

Coming up tomorrow! Discussion of 451’s plot and my opinions on it.

 

Starting in on eleven and a half years of books…

My friend Kim was talking to me the other day. She had picked up The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books edited by J. Peder Zane and she had an idea.

Apparently, The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books compiles lists of what a ton of various authors (Barry Hannah, Francine Prose, Ben Marcus, Emma Donoghue, Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and many others) consider to be the ten best books of all time. They even compile various lists out of the lists. Books and books and books.

So, Kim came up with the idea that it would be fun to start a book blog (this) and go through book by book, reviewing each as we went. I was game, so that’s what we are doing.

Now, The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books lists a total of 544 total books. The intro claims that if you read one a week it would take you eleven and a half years to finish. Seeing as that was about the rate we were planning (trading off), we suddenly had a clever name for the blog.

I should mention, we may not do each and every book. We might not keep this up for eleven and a half years, and may not stick to our planned schedule exactly. Some of the books on the lists aren’t even books (such as references to the entire work of an author or an entire form of their work). As it is right now, I’ve already read about 167 of these (not counting partials for the vague references mentioned a second ago) and may not want to always revisit. I also currently refuse to read any more Henry James.

We also might wander around a bit. We might talk about some of the authors who gave their opinions and how their work has influenced us as opposed to the books they talk about. We might even talk about totally different books. Really, we might do just about anything we want. However, it will likely all be (or mostly be) book related.

As such, feel free to follow along. Our opinions are just our opinions, but we have some great books to talk about.