Tuesday, July 3, 2012
It has been a pleasure for me this week to re-visit an old favorite by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. It was originally one of those books that scared the living daylights out of me, and firmly entrenched a dedication to the act of reading (and buying books...lots of books 'cos I want to save 'em all!).
When I was a young girl, high on the joy of reading, I was negatively teased about it by my family. Though I can't remember far enough back to say with absolute certainty when I first began to read, I can clearly remember the excitement of understanding letters, and being able to string them into words that meant something (the A-ha! moment). I can also remember the hunger to read more, to read them all, and to never stop reading, ever. It wasn't an easy thing to do. It is a difficult concept for me to accept (and believe me today I am still mystified that there can still be such a thing), but there are households out there in the world that do not read, and mine was one of them. My mother wanted me to be a secretary or a nurse until I got married. She wanted me to take Physical Education and Cooking at school, all good subjects to take to support what her expectations of me were (which was to be like herself, or what she had always wanted to be), and having my head in a book did not agree with her image of what I should be. The sad thing is, my mother never had the opportunities that I had, she didn't even finish grade school (my memory is fuzzy on just how much schooling she actually recieved), so she was never able to appreciate the joys of a good book (I don't remember her actually having a book in her hand ever). It took a long time for me to understand that and it wasn't until I was an adult and far removed from my mother that I realized her ignorance and jealousy was what had fueled her contempt for me and my puzzling interests. I had this fantasy when I was a teenager about the kind of home I would have when I grew up, and the most noticeable feature was the wall to wall library in every room (plus the really bitchin' stereo and music room!).
When I had my own family, I made sure from the very beginning, that books would be a part of their lives. All of my children were read to from an early age ( I remember reading to 20-month-old DS1 while cradling 3-week-old DS2 in my lap). Books were important... perhaps because they were such an issue when I was young. I have always had that contrary streak that makes me want to do even more the things that other people tell me I cannot do! (Just watch me during Banned Books Week!) So books have been a major part of my adulthood my children love to read (plus they have always had the freedom to do as they wished in their life and career choices with support from myself and my husband).
So you may understand why Fahrenheit 451 was such a devastating book to read for me as I could understand and sympathise with all of the people who were punished, arrested and forced to watch as their books were burnt in front of them. No-one should be able to tell you what you can and cannot do, and free thinking of any sort, is a right for every person. This is why I will always fight against censorship, why I have the best job in the world (in a library), and why I am constantly reading. Books are life. Freedom of thought, full of knowledge, dreams and imagination, books are anything and everything to me.
"Through my love of words and my love of ideas and metaphors, I can convince you of the most unlikely things. That's what a magician does. He can make an elephant disappear on stage. I can make an entire world disappear or appear in a story. Or I can make dinosaurs fall in love with lighthouses. It's magic!"
If you have never read Fahrenheit 451, I recommend that you try to get a hold of the 50th Anniversary Edition, as it has a coda which was really quite profound and very classic Bradbury waxing poetic about something he is passionate about (censorship!). And if that is not enough (and I don't see how it could be!) have a look at BRADBURY SPEAKS: Too Soon From The Cave, Too Far From The Stars Essays on the Past, the Future, and Everything in Between. In that book is a very clear and poignant insight in to the genius that was Ray Bradbury.