Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fahrenheit 451, Continued

I do ramble on and on. Walked into the Mark Twain branch of the library and saw "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury. I decided to grab it off the shelf. Next to it was "1984" by George Orwell, so decided to reread it. That should have given me a clue that "Fahrenheit" was not a new release made into a controversial movie. Okay, not new-new, but recent. Can not for the life of me remember the name of that movie 'everyone' was talking about a while back. I was thus surprised when I got "Fahrenheit 451" home to learn it was first published in 1953. And I think I did read it. Definitely not in 1953. Dick & Jane Readers were still a year in my future.

It was interesting to read a future vision of life in these United States written in the 1950s. Bradbury's could not envision cigarette smokers as the new outlaws. Many of his characters smoked. While on the job, yet! And the all night robot bank tellers. No need of them with ATM's giving instant access to our money 24/7. The cost of a "wall" was $2,000. The walls, I imagine as being similar to a vision that is here now, those big screen, thin screen televisions. His wife wanted a fourth wall and he complained that would cost him 1/3 of his yearly salary. I imagine it would be hard to imagine a world when $6,000. would not be considered a decent salary.

A body might be paying $50. a month rent in those days. A candy bar was a luxury bought for a nickel; pennies were useful to buy penny candy from stores or gumball machines. Cigarettes cost 23 cents a pack. Was it "3 pounds of ground beef for a dollar"? Lettuce might have cost the same as a pack of smokes or less. Hence Bradbury picturing a future world might think he was imagining an appropriate salary. Or maybe his fireman was living way below poverty level. (And still owned a house?) The story mentions "us" starting and winning two atomic wars since 1990 as the only hint to the futuristic year the tale took place.

The only reason I think I read the book somewhere as I travelled life's highway was the Mechanical Dog. Seems like I read about him somewhere. A scary thing! Perhaps it was one of those assigned readings in High (or Junior) School. Like reading "1984" or "Animal Farm". Same type of book. Apt, also. The Afterword was copyrighted in 1982. What Brad bury says is how some of that Sci Fi he wrote about seemed to be coming to pass before his very eyes. The minorities getting control over what we can read. "Not Politically Correct" or Politely Correct as I say.

He did not mention the buzzwords: Are we having fun yet? Bradbury's future book people were all about leisure and having fun. Even though people were happy and smiling suicides were common. Discussing what was happening on "the wall" passed for conversation. Sort of like the big topics of today's conversation. American Idol, Survivor or Dancing with the Stars. When Bradbury wrote "Fahrenheit" television was in it's infancy. Perhaps he spotted that trend of television someday dominating our lives even then.

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