Sunday, January 14, 2007

“Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ‘em to ashes, then burn the ashes." - from Fahrenheit 451

“My stories run up and bite me on the leg-I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.” – Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Del Rey, 1950
Science Fiction (Classic); 179 pgs

Started: 01/12/2007
Completed: 01/13/2007 (1:18 p.m.)
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: It was a pleasure to burn.

Where Book Came From: TBR Room (since 07/2005 - on the shelf at the local Barnes and Noble before that)

Reason for Reading: This was my second pick for the Winter Classics Challenge.

Comments: Unlike the fireman of today who put out fires for a living, the firemen of Ray Bradbury’s world in Fahrenheit 451 start them. More specifically, when their alarms go off in the middle of the night, they rush to the home of individuals who are harboring and reading books. As the books burn (at 451 degrees Fahrenheit), the owners are arrested. The reading of books is considered a threat to the greater good and is a subversion against society.

Although on the surface books are targeted as the source of evil, it is not the books themselves that the government fears, but the knowledge that people can acquire from reading those books. In fact, all forms of media have been watered down and controlled in an effort to keep the people at peace and without worry or fear. All to the extreme. The society in Bradbury’s world values conformity and to be different, an individual, is considered dangerous.

Guy Montag is a fireman, one who has enjoyed his job for many years, but suddenly he finds himself in doubt. It begins with a girl, “I’m seventeen and I’m crazy” Clarisse McClellan, who he meets one night on his walk home. Clarisse is a curious girl whose questions make Montag question his own life, his own happiness. What Montag finds disturbs him. And from there, his life as he knows it begins to unravel and change. He doubts everything he once valued and held dear; and with these thoughts, he knows that nothing can ever be the same.

It is Clarisse, a horrific tragedy at the house of an older woman whose books must be burnt, and the memories of an elderly professor in a park, that spur Guy Montag into action. He seeks out the old professor, hoping to find answers to his questions. In a world where asking questions and seeking the answers can be fatal, Montag places himself in a very dangerous position.

Fahrenheit 451 is a powerful novel that forces readers to face the extreme of where censorship of not only books, but especially of thought and knowledge, can lead if unchecked. And yet it is also a novel of hope, of the possibility for change, if only a person is willing to remember and learn.

I came away from this novel feeling a little ashamed at my recent thoughts of wanting to keep the world out and only focus on my own life. The stressors of watching and reading the news and keeping those events at arms length, seemed less stressful, less worrisome. It’s easier not to think of that which we can’t control—a way to avoid the fear and worry that can creep in. While these thoughts of mine come and go and are not to the extreme preached about in the novel, it’s a thought worth pondering all the same.

Favorite Parts: I really enjoyed the moments with Clarisse McClellan. Her curiosity and openness, however simple it may have seemed at the time, helped spark Guy Montag into taking a closer look at his life and society around him.

Beatty was an interesting character who made me grateful my copy of the novel included an afterward by the author which explained some of the character’s past. Beatty, although spouting the company line all the while, intrigued me. His knowledge of history and literature seemed counter to the denial and ignorance that society was encouraged to live in.

Note about the Author: Ray Bradbury spent most of his time writing the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library, typing away on a typewriter that cost him a dime every half hour. He said that in all, it cost him nine dollars and eighty cents in dimes to complete that first draft.

Read what others had to say:
Melody's Reading Corner
Hello, My Name is Alice

Miscellaneous: Anjin reported that there was snow not too far from his office Friday, an unusual sighting since this part of the state doesn’t often see snow. The animals and I are staying out of the cold as much as I can. Luckily we've got a big stock of hot chocolate in the house.


  1. Hey there, Literary Feline!

    I'm glad you enjoyed Fahrenheit 451. I read it about 4 years ago and along with most classics I read, didn't care for it. I think I have figured out what my problem with "classics" is. If it's labeled a "classic" I believe I begin with an idealistic view of what is to come. I'm thinking it's going to be the most fantastic, page-turning, literary phenomenon I've ever read and to my doesn't happen. It's taken me quite some time to actually understand my expectations and thoughts of a classic. The more I read, the better I understand the concept. Odd, but true.

    Needless to say, you wrote a wonderful review and again, I'm glad you liked it.

  2. Hi there Literary Feline,
    I have just been spending some time enjoying your site.

    I love your kitty theme. I am "mom" to three cats and a dog. :)

    I enjoyed your review of Fahrenheit 451. I have not read it yet but my 15 year old did and really enjoyed it. I didn't even think of it when making my classics list.

    I am excited to read them all though. I missed them all when I was in school but I want to share them with my kids.

    I am going to link to you, if that is ok.

    Have a great day and thanks for welcoming a newbie to the challenges.

  3. I have been wanting to read this book for some time so I didn't read all of your review.

    BUT thanks for the kick in the ass.

  4. Joy - Thanks! I haven't met too many classics I have not enjoyed, even back in high school. I don't think I could tell you why though. I've always been weird that way. LOL

    I do think that sometimes expectations can be too high when it comes to the classics--or even many of the most raved about books out there. It's sure to set a book up for failure if a reader's expectations are too high. For me, I don't expect a classic to be"fantastic" but rather conscious-raising on some level.

    One of the books on my classics list I'm sure some would argue is not a classic (Maltese Falcon), but I think it rates as one as it was sort of groundbreaking and it's stood the test of time. So, I'm stretching it. I needed something fun after all the heavy stuff!

    Anyhow, at least you are giving it a try. It could be that the types of books society labels as classics just aren't your cup of tea. There's plenty of other wonderful books out there to make up for it, right? :-)

    Amy - Thank you! I'm glad you liked the review and the blog theme. :-) I'm a mom to one cat and one dog. They bring me such joy--and occasionally a headache. LOL

    I didn't get the chance to read Fahrenheit 451 in school, and so I decided I might as well go ahead now. Too often I tend to skip over the classics sitting on my shelf. The Classics Challenge has been a great way for me to overcome my procrastination.

    I would be honored if you put a link to my site on your blog! :-) I've added you to my blogroll.

  5. Nessie - I try hard not to put spoilers in--at least no more than you'd find on the back of the book, but I know sometimes there are things a person would rather not know up front. :-)

    When you do read it, I look forward to reading what you think. You are always so good at putting your thoughts into words.

  6. Great review! I read this back in high school and remember liking it, even though the subject is hard for book lovers like us...I think I would just cry my heart out if someone burned my books :0)

  7. Thank you, Kim! It's sad that there are really people out there that really do feel threatened by books and want to keep them from being read.

  8. This is a great review, Wendy! I didn't know Fahrenheit 451 was about censorship- I don't know what vague idea I had about its subject matter, actually. But your review makes me want to read it :-) Eventually!

    As for Georgette Heyer, I'd give her a try! I don't normally read romance novels, either. In fact, she's probably the only real romance author I read. Mostly because her stories are just so witty and usually have parts that make you laugh out loud :-) I think you should try her!

  9. This is one of those books that I've been meaning to read for years and years but have never gotten around to. Thanks for reminding me about it.. I feel like I might actually get around to it someday. ;)

  10. After reading your review, I think I can finish the book now. It just creeped me out! Visualizing burning books every page I turned.

    Interesting thought about wanting to keep the world out and having this book questioning that desire.

  11. Aarti - Thank you for your kind words. :-) If you do read the book, I'd love to hear what you think. I read someone else's review recently (I'm drawing a blank as to who) who said it would be a good book to read for a class--that book definitely has a lot of discussion potential.

    I'll add Georgette Heyer to my list of authors to try. Thanks, Aari, for the recommendation!

    Sara - Yeah, that's about where I'd been with reading it too, meaning to for quite a while but never quite getting around to it. The Classics Challenge was a good excuse to finally pull it off my shelf.

    Carrie k - Bradbury definitely paints a dark world, doesn't he? I can see why people would struggle with it. The more I read, the more the story came together for me. I wasn't so sure that would happen at first.

  12. Thanks for the review of Fahrenheit 451. I think I'll add this to Mt. TBR...

  13. I've never read that book, but you made a very good point. There are so many people who avoid news about what is going on in the world -- saying that it's "too depressing," or whatever. But we're really taking that access for granted. What if we didn't have the ready access to it that we do now? What if it was watered down, like it is in China?

  14. I just realized that I've got Farenheit 451 on my TBR Challenge list! I started it last year for a book club and couldn't get through it.

    Hopefully it'll come together for me this time around.

  15. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your review of Fahrenheit 451 is great! I really enjoyed the bits with Clarisse too. Generally I guess I wished the story and characters were fleshed out a bit more. That afterword sounds interesting, my copy had only the story, and I was too lazy to search the internet for additional info.

  16. Bybee and Carl - I hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

    Carrie K - I hope you'll have better luck this time around!

    Zandria- Yes, what if? Isn't that one of the many reasons I vote in every election--because I can and I know so many others out there can't? Fahrenheit 451 was thought provoking in more ways than one.

    Tanabata - Yes, it would have been nice if the characters had been fleshed out more--it seemed more of a message book than anything else. I did appreciate the afterward very much. I guess Bradbury wrote a play that is set after his book in which his characters are more fleshed out. Or so it seemed to me reading just the summary.


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