Fire is bright and fire is clean.

Last night, I thought about all the kerosene I’ve used in the last ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up. A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper. [ . . . ] It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around at the world and life and then I come along in two minutes and boom! it’s all over.

~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I had a fantastic discussion with one of our work-study students this week about books. One of those discussions where I lose track of time, and suddenly, forty-five minutes has gone by and we’re still talking. I mentioned The Book Thief to her, and she in turn asked if I’d read Fahrenheit 451. She was shocked to discover that I hadn’t, and I checked it out that afternoon. I finished it this morning.

The book is quite good. Very 1950s, but that’s okay. At some moments, I had to suspend my disbelief and remind myself of when the book was written. Some of the ideas seem farfetched from my 21st century perspective, but Ray Bradbury was revolutionary decades ago (much like Richard Matheson with I Am Legend).

Imagine a world where books are essentially banned. Imagine firemen who set fires to burn books instead of putting them out. Imagine a woman dying rather than parting with her beloved books. Imagine the great works of literature existing only in the minds of a few scholars who are on the run, who realize that knowledge is both sacred and dangerous and has the power to restore humanity to an eroded civilization.

Ray Bradbury created a world like that. And the result is powerful and poignant. It made me want to read even more and soak up every ounce of knowledge I can.

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2 thoughts on “Fire is bright and fire is clean.

  1. […] 11. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. After a discussion with one of our library work-study students, who was apalled that I’d never read this novel, I checked it out. Since it was fewer than 150 pages, I read it pretty quickly and found it to be very thought-provoking. […]

  2. Harvin says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite books! Sure, I’m bound to love any novel about, well, novels (what English nerd doesn’t?), but it’s passages like the one you quote that give the book so much substance. Fahrenheit 451 does a great job of revealing the real power of literature to influence people as well as the danger of its absence in civilization.

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