Book Burning: The Way of the Future?
I’m reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for the first time (I guess I missed that grade school assignment!). Not only is it a conceptually powerful book, but the writing is beautiful. Here’s an example of what I love about Bradbury’s use of language: “Now, sucking all the night into his open mouth and blowing it out pale, with all the blackness left heavily inside himself…”
The premise of the book is a future society in which the job of firemen is to burn books, and where owning a book is treason, because books are repositories of memory, of history, and, even worse, of ideas which would undermine a smoothly-functioning, pleasure-seeking society. As one character says about books: the characters in them aren’t real, so who cares?
I’ve also just started reading Jason Merkoski’s new publication: Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading. Merkoski, who was on the Amazon team that created the Kindle, has an MIT-trained brain and a passion for literature that led him to become involved in a project that he describes as akin to what happened in Guttenberg’s studio: a complete rethinking of what the book is and can be.
They make for interesting reading companions, these two books. One is a cautionary tale of a dystopian society where books are considering dangerous and must be destroyed, and the other is a freethinking exploration of how to potentially dismantle and rethink the book as we know it. Bradbury and Merkoski both agree about the incredibly important role books play in our society, and their heft as both cultural sustainers and creators.