Fahrenheit 451

Last week I read this article by writer Ewan Morrison about the death of books. He predicted that printed books would be dead and buried in twenty five years time due to the increase in ebook. Quality will suffer because of the ease with which ebooks can be produced. Writers are missing out the middle man and DIYing their own ebooks. Unfortunately the middle man also happens to be the quality control man. It is a depressing read a month after I signed my first contract to have a novel published. I need to hope that sense will prevail and that the world will not be turned into a swirling slush pile of mediocre fiction.

It is perhaps a spooky coincidence, or it is synchronicity, that around the same time as I read the article I found the next book on my to-read pile was Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. This dystopian novel was first published in 1951. The novel is set in a future world where firemen are used to burn books and anyone possessing a book is hunted down. The temperature book paper burns is 451 Fahrenheit.

This is a pretty horrific world but what is more terrible are the reasons for the book burning. The inhabitants of this world wanted escapism that was easy, titillating and real for them. They didn’t want to feel inferior to anyone, the more minorities there were the harder this was to achieve. So everything was reduced to what Bradbury calls ‘Vanilla Tapioca’. In this world leisure is plentiful. Living rooms have wall to wall 3D TV. These walls are called the ‘Parlour’ and the people who live within the ‘Parlour’ are like the relatives; so real they are part of the family. What Bradbury described first in 1951 is not so far away today.

Today’s newspapers contain hardly any news, mostly celebrity gossip. TVs the size of football pitches crowd out many living rooms and soap operas are so common place and familiar that even thought I never watch them I could probably name some of their main characters.

Ray Bradbury’s world may be gruesome, but it is believable. The books in that world make people feel inferior and have no place in a Vanilla Tapioca World, therefore they must go. I could probably live with the demise of new printed books because we have a wonderful back catalogue of classics that would take me several lifetimes to read. What terrifies me is living in a world where ‘The Parlour’ is the norm. That is the real horror of the Fahrenheit 451 because it is just around the corner.

Read the book and judge for yourself. 

I bought my copy from the wonderful Plan B Book in Glasgow. One of the few bookseller left standing, but that’s another story.

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