Genre: Dystopian, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden. Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames… never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do…”
Review: I’ll start this review off by saying what a tremendous book. I first read Fahrenheit 451 as part of a school assignment. While I don’t remember much from that first reading, I do remember being singularly terrified by the Mechanical Hound and it’s many piercing needles. Montag’s struggles so easily became my own; his fears and joys closely mirrored my own throughout the book, which is clearly an immense credit to Bradbury’s writing. Indeed, Fahrenheit 451 remains one of my favorite investigations into the implications of censorship. While I found the novel to be increasingly preachy throughout my reading, I still enjoyed Montag’s metamorphosis from blindly ignorant fireman to desperate, enlightened, and brave societal outcast. The novel pacing is a little bit off (a fact which Bradbury himself seems to recognize in the book’s Afterword), but Fahrenheit 451 is an altogether unforgettable read and one of my favorite classics.
Reason for Ban/Challenge: As the quintessential poster child for books against conformity, censorship, and book burning, Fahrenheit 451 has, in a cruel twist of irony, been the subject of its own ban and challenge woes. As Bradbury himself says (in a quote that has now been added to the “About” section of this blog and will remain a Banned Book Brigade mantra from here on out):
“The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”
In the first decade of the 2000s, Fahrenheit 451 was the 69th most banned/challenged book in America. For example, Fahrenheit 451 has been petitioned to be removed from certain school libraries and reading lists due to offensive language, vulgarity, and the fact that Bible burning is mentioned in the novel. Bradbury was vehemently opposed to any changes made to his novels, and made his exact sentiments clear in the following quote.
“In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book. All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I’ve won or lost. At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try. And no once can help me. Not even you.”
I have to say I absolutely agree with him; if a book warning us about the perils and dangers of censorship is itself censored, what book is safe?
Bonus: Edited cover from the Buzzfeed article “19 Banned Books if They Were Made Appropriate” (http://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/banned-books-if-they-were-g-rated#.oh3oNwL0b).