June 6, 2012

The Temperature at which Books Burn

I'm a fan of banned books-- let me be clear: banned books, not banning books.

The best thing about banned books is that they get so much attention, and then everyone goes out to read them-- so fabulous-- except in the town or school where the library doesn't carry that book anymore. That stinks.

I am of the opinion that adults should be allowed to choose to read any old book they please. That's one of the few great things about being an adult: We get to choose (I especially am not fond of bread crust, and I choose not to eat it ever again).

And whatever a kid wants to read, I say let him read on, because today's Captain Underpants may turn into tomorrow's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lord knows I spent a fair amount of time reading Danielle Steel in high school, until I realized every book told the same story, and look at me now bloggity blogging about Fahrenheit 451. Were you wondering when I would get to it?

I never had any desire to read this one, partly because I'm just not attracted to books written by men (and I know this is so unfair of me because some of my all-time favorite books were written by men-- well, I can think of two), and partly because the story itself seems very masculine. It's about a fireman for crying out loud.

I keep forgetting to say fireman. I want to say firefighter because that's one of those PC things that stuck with me-- unlike mailman/letter carrier, which I'll never get right-- but Guy Montag doesn't fight fires, he burns books. Not just banned books, but all books, because in the future where Montag lives, all books are illegal.

Then Montag has a breakdown in which he discovers how books came to be illegal: It's because of the people. They don't want to read anymore. They don't want to think or be unhappy, and the government realizes how handy this could be. The problem is that no one is happy. They're all trying to commit suicide.

It was a frightening little read in terms of where society may be going, and I was very happy I didn't read it while the Bush administration was still doing its dirty little deeds.

Here's a funny thing, though: Some of the characters in the book wear headphones, listening to mindless jabber to keep from thinking. It didn't occur to me, until I read an interview with Ray Bradbury, that headphones hadn't been invented in 1953. He made them up! Also, as he says in the interview, he was aghast the first time he saw someone wearing headphones while walking through the park.

It's Star Trek and the cell phones all over again-- well, I guess Bradbury pre-dates Star Trek by 13 years. Who's counting?

It's not a book I would read again, mostly because I really do like a few more people of the female variety in my books, but it did make me stop and think about modern media in new and interesting ways. It frightened me enough to make me want to finish one New Yorker article instead of just reading the poetry and short stories. Those articles are always so long and tedious!

And for your perusing pleasure: a list of the most controversial books in America since 1900, and another from Amazon of 2008's challenged books. That one is worrisome. I just can't imagine walking into the library director's office in Nampa Idaho to borrow a copy of The New Joy of Sex. Can you?

Don't these lists just make you want to read all of the banned books? Or am I the only one who's wacky like that?

Happy Reading!


Allyson said...

Good grief - I've got to get reading. I just finished The Grapes of Wrath, by the bye. Highly recommended, better now snug in the arms of the new administration than, say, last summer. One of the best female characters I've enjoyed in a while, and scary dust bowl foreshadowing for California.

So sorry to hear about Blue. Good dog.

Anonymous said...

B has a saying that I like: "You can't control stupid people." It constantly astonishes me what people choose to get upset over, myself included. But Judy Blume? Come on. The truth is scary I guess. :)FMF

Patricia Caspers said...

Allyson-- I have never read The Grapes of Wrath. I tried once. I know I should give it another go.
Good to see you pop up in the comments box!

FMF-- Did you hear about the uproar when they tried to update _Are You There God. . ._ " for the modern reader? Insanity.