Thursday, January 19, 2012 12:13:44 AM
I've started reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I bought it from a bookshop. Not an independent bookshop, admittedly, but a bookshop nonetheless. I have started reading it as a small, dutiful, symbolic, and I hope, actually more than symbolic act, because I care about books (I know it's a stark statement to make in a world where we're all supposed to be ironic and not care about anything, least of all books), and I want to make some mental statement of that attitude, at the very least to myself.
I've only just started reading Fahrenheit 451 and I don't know exactly the angle it will take, though I do have a broad idea. It's a book about the end of books, and a book about censorship. Today, in internet news, there has been much coverage of a story that involves censorship and which also involves the protection of books, in as much as it relates to copyright laws. Superficially, at least, in the news story in question, these concerns are on opposing sides (anti-censorship against the protection of copyright/books), which might tell us something about the confused and twisted times in which we're living. I don't believe in censorship. I do believe in the benefits to creativity of a reasonable enforcement of intellectual property rights. Why? Because people who create culture need to eat as much as people who fix cars or wait on tables. Food costs money. Shelter costs money. Clothes cost money. Books, films and music should also cost money if the people who produce them are to have the food, shelter and clothes (amongst other things) that cost money.
I don't know if I will agree with all that Bradbury states or implies in his novel. I don't even know if I agree with all that I've already read, in its attitudes and implications. But I do agree with what I see is the underlying, passionate attitude: books have value, and the world would be a much worse place without them. I therefore would like to urge people reading this blog also to go out and buy a copy of Fahrenheit 451, from a real, bricks-and-mortar bookshop, and read it, and ask yourself whether you want to live in a world without books, because I swear sometimes it looks very much like that's where we're headed. And this is from Bradbury's own Afterword to the novel:
There remains only to mention a prediction that my Fire Chief, Beatty, made in 1953, halfway through my book. It had to do with books being burned without matches or fire. Because you don't have to burn books, do you, if the world starts to fill up with non-readers, non-learners, non-knowers? If the world widescreen basketballs and footballs itself to drown in MTV, no Beattys are needed to ignite the kerosene or hunt the reader. If the primary grades suffer meltdown and vanish through the cracks and ventilators of the school room, who, after a while, will know or care?