Sunday, March 25, 2007

Books should be seen (and heard)!

Intrigued by the fact that copies of Fahrenheit 451 were suddenly all over the place and free for the taking, people have begun to share stories of their experiences with the novel.  Some read it in school under duress, some read it on the recommendation of a friend.  Their responses to the book varied in intensity, but none were negative.  Some people were grateful for the reading freedoms that we enjoy; some shuddered at the thought of ever having to live in a Fahrenheit 451 type of world that takes away the simplest of freedoms under the guise of protection.
My own reaction when I read the book eight years ago was that I thought we were all practically force-fed too much entertainment as it was.  I also used to reject the idea of books on tape because I saw it as an easy way out until I learned about auditory learning and realized that just because one heard a book instead of read it didn't mean the words and ideas were any less glorious or had less of an impact.  It was ideas and the feelings that they conjured up that the society in F451 was being "protected" from.   Those ideas and feelings came from the words in the books, whether seen or heard.  Mrs. Phelps breaks down and cries (something she probably had not done in a very long time) when Montag reads Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" because it mirrors the life everyone was living.  It handed her this terrible realization that their own "land of dreams" was a painful place to be.  She did not see the words; she heard them.

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This event is part of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.