Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite science fiction books. Over the last three years, my cynical nature, feeding upon the disturbing news of the world, has been hard to suppress. During this time, I find myself reading dystopian classics, such as Fahrenheit 451, and finding comfort in the fact that the real world is far less oppressive. Books like 1984* and Brave New World have been rising higher in my to-read queue, and I’ve literally started to wear my cynicism on my sleeve, with the help of Out of Print Clothing‘s amazing book cover tees.
The above paperback copy of Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1963, 10 years after the book’s debut, and includes the amazingly accurate Ray Bradbury quote on the back cover. In the context of today’s smart-phone society, Bradbury’s words are extraordinary. At the age of 91, he must be terrified by the zombified swarms of iPod-listening, mobile-phone texting, Facebook-posting automatons (make no mistake: I include myself in this group). His views of healthy societal interaction would clash with a reality in which couples text each other while sitting side-by-side at a restaurant, and children forgo the actual three-dimensional world for the artificial world of the Nintendo 3DS.
However, this hasn’t quite led to the dystopian society he envisioned when he wrote Fahrenheit 451. In fact, you could argue that these new forms of communication have helped to connect people like never before. One must only look toward the Arab Spring for evidence of Twitter’s enormously positive influence. Sure, 140 words is the communication depth of a kiddie-pool, but perhaps the quantity more than makes up for the lack of quality. At least, this is what I try and convince myself everyday. As a tactile person and lover of old books and records, I’m resistant to this brave new world (apologies), but my cynical side is assuaged by the plain fact that we aren’t burning books or genetically modifying our children quite yet.
Sure, the world economy is walking a plank made out of styrofoam, and the polarization of our political system has been turned up to eleven (thank you, Frank Luntz), but the death of intellectualism is far from pronounced. After all, we have realized half of Ray Bradbury’s horrifying vision, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad…
*Footnote: I was reading 1984 at my favorite coffee shop the other day, and 10 pages in, I literally think to myself, “I wonder what year this book takes place.” Sometimes, my inner-idiocy is simply depressing.