Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Insidious Effects

I have to admit I had a little trouble starting Fahrenheit 451. Like many others, I'd read it in High School and remembered its story as enmeshed with Brave New World and 1984. As I continued to read, through the "Sieve and the Sand" and into "Burning Bright," I realized what I had lost among the years of memory. Specifically, I'd forgotten the insidious undertone of the novel, the implied governmental direction and the stifling of bibliophiles and philonoists. This is what started me turning pages, reading at breakfast and lunch, and before bed: the implicit warning to us, the readers, about censorship. I finished the book in half the time it took me to start it. And I was captivated by what Bradbury left out, but hinted at. The cinematic drama of the chase, the collection of hobos along the tracks, the discussion of politicians, the war--all implied a government controlling a country with a wicked coerciveness and a stupefying ability over its constituents.

It makes me wonder, what lead to such a government and a culture? How did they stifle the curiosity of an entire nation? And how can we work to ensure that future isn't ours?

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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.