Thursday, September 30, 2010

Farhenheit 451

TH Mafi and The Rejectionist are running a celebration of Banned Books Week and asking everyone to blog about their favorite banned book.

In most cases, you can just blog about your favorite book – because it’s a good chance someone’s tried to ban it.

My favorite book is The Giver. But it’s already been eloquently celebrated by TH Mafi herself and The League of Extraordinary Writers, so I’ll defer to them and talk about another of my favorites:

Fahrenheit 451

Despite the fact I can never remember how to spell it, I love talking about it in the context of banned books. Unlike most people, I never read this in school. I didn’t even really know what it was about, until a scene from the West Wing, where a school-boy-aged President Bartlett got in trouble because he challenged the teacher at his prep school who was trying to restrict his students’ reading.

I clearly remember (the gist of) what he said to his father:

“He tried to ban Fahrenheit 451, which is about BANNING BOOKS!”

That intrigued me. So I read it.

OK, well I…. um… how do I say this… I promise I wasn’t trying to be ironic…

I listened to it in audio format. (I had a drive to work that was one hour each way at that time, so I listened to A LOT of audio books in those four months. Tangent: Brendan Frasier and James Marsden are the best audio book performers I’ve ever heard!)

What’s really awesome (and by awesome, I mean horrifying, ironic and head-bang-against-desk inducing) about people trying to ban this book is some of the reasons they give:

More than a few have objected to the scene were a Bible was burned.

Um, yeah. Congratulations, you got it. It’s a bad thing… THAT’S THE POINT. I mean, really? I have no words to describe how stupid this is. But that’s ok, because you’d probably try to ban them anyway.

It uses the words “hell” and “damn.”

Oh, how I love when parents want to ban a book because it has a bad word in it (as if your kid isn’t saying thirteen far worse things – that he probably learned from you – before lunch time), but in this case, it’s almost funny. The world in Fahrenheit 451 is a bad, BAD place. Books that promote independent thought are banned. Do you expect them to be intellectual, eloquent and say “gosh” when they get angry?

Ray Bradbury showed us just how dangerous censorship is and this book serves as a warning to a society that is sometimes a little too quick to give up their freedoms – or give up the freedoms of others – when they’re scared. The message is clear:

  • Step 1: Ban books

  • Step 2: Become sheep

The fact that people want to ban a book that’s about banning books that make people uncomfortable because it makes them uncomfortable, feels like a cosmic joke.

I guess I’m missing the punch line.


  1. Well said! I think it's time I read this one once again. Thanks for bringing it to attention!

  2. Yay, Ray Bradbury! Total agreement from me. Trying to ban a book about the suppressing and ritual burning of books. Honestly.

  3. Awesome. Just awesome. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I've never read this though my brother has recommended it to me. Looks like in honor of this week I shall read it. :)