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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 27/100: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Item #42 of the Around the Year Reading Challenge: A book from the top 100 fantasy/sci-fi list (NPR)

This was my second time reading this, but the only thing I remembered from the first time was that these people had TVs that took up the whole wall and that some folks memorized books.

I don't remember being particularly impressed the first time through. I liked it more the second time, particularly its message about how it's not just books that are important, but that we don't lose touch with our humanity and the struggle to understand ideas and experiences different from our own. The warning that becoming too lost in vapid entertainment may dull our senses to what's real -- such as our relationships with the people who live in our houses, or the war happening at our borders -- seems to remain especially relevant in the age of reality TV and get-famous-quick schemes. Although, Mildred lying on the bed zoned out with her "seashells" is not that different from me wandering around with an audiobook constantly playing in my ears ... ;)

I do remember being frustrated by the portrayal of women the first time I read it, and that frustration remained on this go 'round. The portrayal of women in classic sci-fi ALWAYS annoys me, though -- it's so frustrating that these dudes could imagine all sorts of funky technology, totally different societies, and yet gender roles remain firmly enmeshed in the era in which they were written. This book is particularly egregious because the one female character who is not totally vapid (view spoiler)[ is killed off or otherwise disappears pretty early on (hide spoiler)]. All the others, with the charge led by Montag's wife, Millie, basically embody everything that is wrong with a post-book society. They are lazy, selfish, out of touch with their own feelings and the feelings of others,empty-headed, etc. While even the men who espouse unsavory ideals, such as Captain Beatty, have the ability to think critically and have some character complexity. And of course ALL the rebels Montag encountered outside the city were men. (One of the women in my book club made a comment about when the men talked about "passing the knowledge of books" on to their children, and she was like, "How are you gonna get those?!?")

This is all especially egregious because for a substantial part of their marriage, Bradbury's wife WAS the family's breadwinner while he stayed home and wrote. So of all old-school sci-fi writers, he should have been able to think outside the housewife box. But perhaps he harbored some hidden resentment that manifested in his treatment of wives in this book.

Anyway, now that I'm done psychoanalyzing Bradbury, I'll mention that the mechanical hound was super cool/scary -- and that Bradbury's afterward in the edition I listened to really made me dislike him as a person even if I can admire him as a writer.

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