Thursday, March 1, 2007

the future's so bleak, I gotta wear shades

Ray Bradbury accounted for a good chunk of my high school curriculum, thanks in part to the borderline unhealthy obsession of my 9th grade English teacher, Miss Debusk. She was an extremely chipper woman whose affinity for Ray Bradbury was equalled only by her affnity for Scottish Terriers (half of her wardrobe consisted of sweaters with scotty dogs on them). I remember Miss Debusk going so far as to say that she was in love with Ray Bradbury and would marry him in an instant, which I thought was bizarre because Ray Bradbury didn't look like the kind of person women would dream of marrying and, perhaps more importantly, he was already married. Thanks to Miss Debusk and the Springfield Public School System, I read Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and last but not least, Fahrenheit 451. Admittedly, I thought it was a gimmicky premise for a book (I've never really been a science fiction buff) but by the time I was done reading it, I had changed my tune. Not only was Fahrenheit 451 better than I thought it was going to be, but it was also my first experience with dystopian literature and it scared the bejeezis out of me. With shades of 1984 and Brave New World, Bradbury's story presents an Orwellian nightmare not too far removed from our current society--an age where television reigns supreme and knowledge and literacy are all but extinct. While this concept might have been unimaginable when the book was first published in 1953, the sad truth is that it doesn't seem so far-fetched today. Bradbury's frightening vision of the future is not only more than plausible--considering how our current culture continues to applaud ignorance and emphasize entertainment over ideas, it seems almost inevitable.

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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.