Headscratchers / Fahrenheit 451

  • I'm just going to quote Stephen Bond's pointing out that the premise of the book is implausible and how the "Book People" come across as shallow idiots who learn books by rote instead of engaging with the text, and wonder if anybody else thought anything similar.
    • Well, as nothing in the book defies the laws of physics (other than implying some people have super-memory, and the transforming helicopters/cars and fireproof-houses are just the typical predicted advances in technology in stories set in the future, and pretty tame, at that), nothing about the premise is "impossible." Learning books by rote is not stated to be a substitute for "engaging with the text" but the only way to hang onto your books when the government burns all physical copies (before anyone invokes Tech Marches On, using e-books would be even more foolish, since they require electrical power that is scarce when you're on the run from society, and accessing them can be easily tracked); reciting is used as the only available substitute (under the circumstances) for reading, and memorizing as a weapon to protect valuable texts from the fire so people can continue to engage with them just as people once did in the days of the Oral Tradition. Is it tragic that people have to resort to this method to read? Yes. But what's the alternative? And what's shallow about bookworm rebel survivalists? Bond's completely right that the film was poor — as usual. I find it ridiculous, however, that he got the impression that a society that hates books also cannot read. People read words all the time in the book! The tv programs come with scripts for audience participation! The Firemen get written reports of houses to burn! Bond should have read Faber's conversation with Montag; it's not the act of reading written strokes of ink or type that represent sounds and form words that is disappearing, it's the activity of reading, and any bookworm could have told him there's a difference. It's books the government destroys, not the written word.
    • Really, criticism is a luxury — that's why most people read novels that are meant to be fun and not something they can wrestle with or dissect the symbolism of. You need time to think and time to read more books in order to engage in criticism. So the Book People are taking a literal approach to "preserving" books, but it's something that they love, and hopefully one day they'll transmit the texts back into writing and have the luxury of criticism one again. Also, the Book People are pretty pretentious — ninety percent of their texts are the kinds of books you say that you've read so that you can impress others. At least the film changed up their group (and literature) from being all staid old white men.
    • Books also provide a way of preserving the voices and ideas of people from the past. Destroying books can be taken to mean that they are eradicating the memories of the people who have written and read them. These "pretentious" people may simply believe that these books, authors, and ideas are worth remembering, and they see themselves, with the best intentions, as the last safeguards to keep the ideas of the books and the writers from disappearing entirely from the world. If they have been able to pass on their book to even one person, then they would have kept the book in human memory for at least a little longer.