(1) Bradbury is the centerpiece of another Big Read in Kansas City. Biographer Sam Weller helps launch the event in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ forever: a literary classic’s uncanny cultural longevity.
In 1953, a little-known 33-year-old writer named Ray Bradbury wrote his first novel.
Sixty-two years later, “Fahrenheit 451” is a bona fide international classic.
The masterwork about a dystopian society where books are contraband is a staple of school curricula. It has been translated into more than 30 languages around the world and is, today, one of the most selected titles in community reading programs across the nation (along with Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”).
The Kansas City area this week joins the list of community celebrants. The Mid-Continent Public Library system has kicked off a series of events surrounding the book in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” initiative. Having worked closely with Ray Bradbury for over a decade as his authorized biographer, I am thrilled to participate.
“Fahrenheit 451” is one of those rare books that transcend time and generations. But why? Why does this short 50,000-word novel continue to have such cultural relevance?
Even Ray Bradbury was somewhat vexed by the waxing success of his novel over the decades.
“I was just writing an adventure novel,” he told me on multiple occasions. Bradbury described his book as “a fugitive chase disguised as literature,” in reference to the plotline of a fireman who burns books for a living and one-day decides to take one home to see what all the fuss is about. When Guy Montag discovers the magic, wonder, philosophy and poetry inside books, he leaves his life as a book burner behind and becomes a bibliophilic fugitive in a society where books are illegal.
(2) Adrienne Martini reviews Blythe Woolston’s MARTians at Locus Online.
Like Bradbury, whose work Woolston honors both in the title and as a running theme, this author has a knack for finding just the right details to flesh-out a world without bogging down the action in reams of description. Take, for example, this nugget: ‘‘I won’t have a vote to sell until my eighteenth birthday, and that’s 619 days away.’’ Not only do you learn Zoë’s age but you also learn reams about the world that surrounds her. MARTians is a marvel of linguistic economy.
(3) Bidding is open and lively for the strongest rare book auction Heritage has offered to date, Auction #6155.
Many excellent copies of Bradbury works with personal inscriptions to Bob O’Malley are also present here, such as Dark Carnival (Lot 45014), Fahrenheit 451 (Lot 45016; minimum $1250), The Martian Chronicles (Lot 45021; minimum $1250) and The October Country (Lot 45024; minimum bid $500).
(4) Brigadier Mick Ryan on “Why Reading Science Fiction is Good For Military Officers” at Grounded Curiosity.
And it informs us about bad potential futures. Reading science fiction allows one to think about a range of bad potential futures. The dystopian future genre, particularly for younger readers, has been popular of late. But this is not new. Whether it is King’s The Stand, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Matteson’s I am Legend, or Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, science fiction has always dealt with futures where society breaks down or must deal with a far more pessimistic view of the future. Some even deal with the end of the world, with a recent example being Stephenson’s Seven Eve’s. It is good that military officers should read such descriptions of alternate futures; it is the first step in us ensuring that they do not come to pass.