You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
A friend gave me Fahrenheit 451 the other day and it didn’t come as a surprise. We’ve been friends for sometime now. We’ve been having lunch and spending time together browsing at second hand bookstores. T can say she can read me like a book.
She knows that Ray bradbury is one of my favorite authors. I confess that some of his books don’t appeal to me. I’ve found them too imaginative for my taste. Nonetheless, it doesn’t diminish my respect and love for the man.
It’s interesting to note that Fahrenheit 451 is over 50 years old. It has stood the test of time. It has become a literary classic. It’s been given a bad rap, though, for being a required reading in high school. Don’t you just hate it when you’re asked to study and analyze the book for the purpose of writing a 1,000 word essay on it?
Fortunately, we get second chances in life. Many of us have survived those rebellious years without damaging scars. We get the opportunity to look at Fahrenheit 451 and the others with a new pair of eyes. We realize that they are to be read for the sheer enjoyment of it. They aren’t like frogs to be dissected and scrutinized under the microscope in the science lab.
Fahrenheit 451 is a story where society considers books as the antithesis of happiness. Reading books leads to melancholy because it makes you think and reflect and listen to the voice within. In a world where romance has no place, where instant gratification is the norm, that’s a no-no. Therefore, they have to be banned. Firemen are assigned the task of finding and burning them.
Fahrenheit 451 is about a future that’s becoming less distant than we’ve imagined it to be. In a way, it’s slowly becoming a reality. Literacy is going down the tube. We’re becoming image-driven, relying more and more on TV and video games for knowledge and entertainment. The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words has never been truer than it is today.
It’s the sign of the times. As books become irrelevant, bookstores are either losing big time or closing down. Take the case of Borders. According to audit integrity, this widely popular bookstore chain has suffered four straight fiscal years of net losses. In the last 12 months alone, it reported, the chain has lost $88 million on a 15% sales decline. Are we seeing the end of an era here? The simple pleasure of reading books may soon just be a memory.
Will ebook readers save the day? Will a shift to electronic media rekindle the waning interest in reading and thereby promote literacy to succeeding generations? We’ll have to wait and see.
What happens to printed books that nobody wanted anymore? They are turned into pulp for box containers or they end up in a landfill. Little did Bradbury knew when he wrote the novel that we don’t need firemen to burn them.