Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which book-paper catches fire and burns


 Ray Bradbury August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012

We all read his books and short stories in our younger years. He made an impression.

'Fahrenheit 451' (1953) excerpts

"Do you mind if I ask? How long have you worked at being a fireman?"
"Since I was twenty, ten years ago."
"Do you ever read any of the books you bum?"
He laughed. "That's against the law!"
"Oh. Of course."
"It's fine work. Monday bum Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em
to ashes, then bum the ashes. That's our official slogan."
They walked still further and the girl said, "Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out
instead of going to start them?"
"No. Houses. have always been fireproof, take my word for it."
"Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and
they needed firemen to stop the flames."
He laughed.

"I-I've been thinking. About the fire last week. About the man whose library we fixed. What happened to him?"
"They took him screaming off to the asylum"
"He. wasn't insane."
Beatty arranged his cards quietly. "Any man's insane who thinks he can fool the Government and us."
"I've tried to imagine," said Montag, "just how it would feel. I mean to have firemen burn our houses and our books."
"We haven't any books."
"But if we did have some."
"You got some?"
Beatty blinked slowly.
"No." Montag gazed beyond them to the wall with the typed lists of a million forbidden books. Their names leapt in fire, burning down the years under his axe and his hose which sprayed not water but kerosene. "No."

"More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you don't have to think, eh?

We know how to nip most of them in the bud, early. You can't build a house without nails and wood. If you don't want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the Government is inefficient, top?heavy, and tax?mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non?combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely `brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide?rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely. I know, I've tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your dare-devils, jet cars, motor cycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything to do with automatic reflex. 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."

The bombers crossed the sky and crossed the sky over the house, gasping, murmuring, whistling like an immense, invisible fan, circling in emptiness."Jesus God," said Montag. "Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn't someone want to talk about it? We've started and won two atomic wars since 1960. Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? I've heard rumours; the world is starving, but we're well-fed. Is it true, the world works hard and we play? Is that why we're hated so much? I've heard the rumours about hate, too, once in a long while, over the years. Do you know why? I don't, tha's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes! I don't hear those idiot bastards in your parlour talking about it. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe..."

All we want to do is keep the knowledge we think we will need, intact and safe. We're not out to incite or anger anyone yet. For if we are destroyed, the knowledge is dead, perhaps for good. We are model citizens, in our own special way; we walk the old tracks, we lie in the hills at night, and the city people let us be. We're stopped and searched occasionally, but there's nothing on our persons to incriminate us. The organization is flexible, very loose, and fragmentary. Some of us have had plastic surgery on our faces and fingerprints. Right now we have a horrible job; we're waiting for the war to begin and, as quickly, end. It's not pleasant, but then we're not in control, we're the odd minority crying in the wilderness. When the war's over, perhaps we can be of some use in the world."
"Do you really think they'll listen then?"
"If not, we'll just have to wait. We'll pass the books on to our children, by word of mouth, and let our children wait, in turn, on the other people. A lot will be lost that way, of course.
But you can't make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can't last."

Granger stood looking back with Montag. "Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a  wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime."

"And hold on to one thought: You're not important. You're not anything. Some day the load we're carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn't use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And some day we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steam-shovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up.
complete book


  1. A Great writer passes and I shed a tear.

    I think I'll pour myself a glass of dandelion wine...


  2. And heee's back!

    Glad Goon Squad/ Greg Bacon is back on line.

    That was kind of strange - to say the least.

    1. Perhaps it was a test run. To see how the alternative truth media would react to one of their own being removed without warning. There were rumblings there would be a strangulation hold taken on the free internet this summer. Was this a taste of things to come?

    2. Google claims it was hacked a few days ago. Not sure if that has anything to do with what happened.

    3. As Greg said, it may be the games they play or even a test as you say. Google may not necessary want the publicity of being an American censor, at least not now. An across the board take down will probably depend on another 'catalyzing event.'

      Bradbury, Orwell and others have been warning us for so many years. It's not like censorship will be a complete surprise.