Kiss, kiss my Missives, it is time for me to share with you another thing that I so dearly love. Last week I talked about how incredibly awesome The Avengers was. This week I’m going to roll it way back to 1953. The great Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91 on June 5th and his death prompted me to ruminate over how problematic the loss of icons like him can be. It also made me think of all of the amazing things that he’d written. I found myself picking up my very worn copy of Fahrenheit 451 and reading it for what had to be the 15th time.
I love Fahrenheit 451 for all of the usual reasons. It is amazingly well written in Bradbury’s almost lyrical style. The sentences flow easily into each other and the punctuation doesn’t so much break them up as let each one rest before the next one starts singing in its place. Fahrenheit 451 isn’t a science fiction novel it’s what a science fiction novel would feel like if F. Scott Fitzgerald had written one after completing The Great Gatsby.
Of course one could argue that Fahrenheit 451 isn’t a science fiction novel at all. It certainly was one at the time it was published, but in the decades since it has become anything but. Any “fantastic” invention Bradbury concocted has since been invented for mass consumption. The giant TVs, the seashell radio, the interactive television plays, the masses being obsessed with violence, the need for constant political correctness, the average person not being able to sort through too many opinions, well that’s all come to fruition, hasn’t it? The novel is barely fiction at all; it’s a work of precognition.
However what I love most about Fahrenheit 451 is that as much as anything, it’s a book written by somebody who loves reading, for people who love reading about the importance of loving to read. Fahrenheit 451 is a book that loves books, the history of them and in them. “Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again,” Bradbury wrote, “and somebody had to do the saving and keeping . . .” It’s not only the writers that do this, but the readers to. Late in the novel, a character named Granger recalls the death of his grandfather who’d been a sculptor. “He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” God damn it! I never get tired of reading that passage. It drips with love and respect and loss. However, reading it in the wake of Bradbury’s death, it drips with reverence for the man himself, as though he’d unknowingly been writing his own epitaph. Fahrenheit 451 is filled with beautiful images like this one. Images that move the soul and make me love the book so much. I love it so much I want to tongue kiss it.