Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - The Big Read 2009

"It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. "
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Join us in the fight against illiteracy as we participate in the Big Read.
Did you know that just 1 in 4 adults now reads? The Big Read inspires people all across the country to read a good book! This year's book is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

The parallels to Fahrenheit 451 are everywhere.

First off, I did not know that Michael Moore used the title Fahrenheit 9/11 as a simple rip off to which Ray Bradbury has expressed his displeasure.

The man himself though, Mr. Bradbury is a great character. How many dust-jacket biographies read like this?

"Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years."

That is not to say he dislikes universities or colleges, but he had no use for them.

I was recently talking to a couple, one of which dropped out of college. I told them that my degree was a waste of time and money. I sincerely wish I had not returned to ASU, and even though I graduated with a 3.5 I feel minute satisfaction for what I learned. The value of a bachelor’s degree is waning as well. Even the master’s programs don’t guarantee a person a job.

Recently I traveled to Slovakia where I talked with several people that attended school there.

First off, higher education is free for those who can pass the entrance tests. Second, if you choose a profession, you go to work in that profession for the two years you are studying it. So when you get out, there is a distinct job which you are trained for and the education backs it up.

Most kids I’ve met in college, and this is not all of them, go there with some esoteric idea about what they want to do and see little, if any, connection to the professional world.

It’s difficult walking out into the workplace and stating you have no real professional experience, no clout that makes you desirable. A huge part of landing any job is the confidence in knowing you will be able to do it.

Bradbury talks a lot about being social, as we are social creatures. He talks about our need to communicate and turn things over in our minds. I’ve found it downright difficult, anywhere I go to enter into a conversation that each party feels capable of speaking on that doesn’t involve TV. People are uncomfortable speaking with each other. The students all have their headphones on before, after and in between class.

This was Bradbury’s nightmare, and I think there is a lot of value to the following quote from an interview with him.

“The whole problem of TV and movies today is summed up for me by the film Moulin Rouge. It came out a few years ago and won a lot of awards. It has 4,560 half-second clips in it. The camera never stops and holds still. So it clicks off your thinking: you can’t think when you have things bombarding you like that. The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.”

I think Bradbury is right, and yet I don’t see a solution to what seems to be a problem. Have you been to the theatre where the sound is so damn loud you feel like you are about to die? From Fahrenheit 451:

"If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the theremin, loudly. I’ll think I'm responding to the play, when it's only a tactile reaction to vibration. But I don't care. I just like solid entertainment."

I really want to believe in the virtue of my generation. We must have evolved in some way that is revolutionary. Commerce moves faster, we care less about our neighbors, we eat processed food, what about this speaks to a raised life style? Not much.

Author Italo Calvino has a similar opinion in his book on writing titled Six Memos for the Next Millennium. His book is a treatise on writing, and he believes much of what created the stories, or archetypes, spring forth from people's subconscious. This story is based on personal experiences of life. In the following excerpt he expresses concern for the multiplicity of images that 'litter' the modern mind.

The possibility of giving form to personal myths arose from the way in which thre fragments of this memory came together in unexpected and evocative combinations. We are bombarded today by such a quantity of images that we can no longer distinguish direct experience from what we have seen for a few seconds on television. The memory is littered with bits and pieces of images, like a rubbish dump, and it is more and more unlikely that any on form among so many will succeed in standing out.

This novel astounded me for a couple reasons. It doesn’t pretend people don’t talk, it out right describes it. It’s not just me feeling awkward in a bus full of people. It everyone!

Bradbury also describes the visceral experience of nature in a way I’d never before thought of it, but definitely experienced it.

“The land rushed at him, a tidal wave. He was crushed by darkness and the look of the country and the million odors on a wind that iced his body. He fell back under the breaking curve of darkness and sound and smell, his ears roaring. He whirled. The stars poured over his sight like flaming meteors. He wanted to plunge in the river again and let it idle him safely on down somewhere. This dark land rising was like that day in his childhood, swimming, when from nowhere the largest wave in the history of remembering slammed him down in salt mud and green darkness, water burning mouth and nose, retching his stomach, screaming! Too much water!

Too much land.”

Hiking the desert and canyons of Arizona can be similar in how it stuns you into an almost fear-like state.

The reason I wrote this article was mainly due to the fact that this book is part of the 'Big Read'. The Big Read is a national program funded by The National Endowment for the Arts. I am ultimately impressed that a country would self-knowingly bring books to light, which make people question their entire mode of thought. I really was just flabbergasted that America, would sponsor such things. After a little research, I found out Carted started the "Endowment' (Carter holding the reputation as the worst president of all time) and that it has been almost dismantled by many presidents to follow him, namely, Reagan.
Either way, as a young guy, I'm impressed that a government allows for itself to promote literature that flips modern lifestyle on its head.

Please head on down to our event with local authors James Sallis and Brent Ghelfi to support this program. If you haven't read the book, you have two options: 1) Read it in three days, as I did or, 2) Come to the event, and then read it in three days.

The event is Saturday, October 18 at 2 pm at The Poisoned Pen. Please come on down and show your support for the arts and local authors.

No comments:

Post a Comment