**spoiler alert** On August 21, 2010, author Ray Bradbury turned ninety years old. He is still very active in the literary community and once again at**spoiler alert** On August 21, 2010, author Ray Bradbury turned ninety years old. He is still very active in the literary community and once again attended this years Comic Con, the convention for comic enthusiasts annually held in San Diego. He is best known for writing The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. To honor his birthday and Banned Books Week I thought I would finally sit down and read the latter. Fahrenheit 451 was written in 1953 and deals with a society in the future that has done away with critical thinking and reading. The government teaches its citizens the importance of physical fitness and instant gratification while keeping the country in the dark about serious matters, such as a looming war. In this future all the buildings are fireproofed and the role of Fireman has evolved into setting fires rather than putting them out. Books are outlawed and the punishment for possession of Faulkner, Shakespeare or even the Bible is the destruction of said books and the home that houses them. Our protagonist, Guy Montag, is one of these firemen. He loves his job-the first line of the book being, "It was a pleasure to burn." After Guy's shift is over he takes the train home and encounters his new neighbor, Clarisse, for the first time. She is a seventeen year old girl, quite inquisitive and bright and completely different from most teenagers, who the narrator alludes to being out of control and a menace to society. That night she changes Guy's life with a simple question, "Are you happy?" Her asking such a question puzzled him, of course he is happy. He is married, has a good job and a nice home. He thought about the ridiculousness of her question the rest of the walk to his house and into the bedroom he shared with his wife, Mildred. When he walked into the cold room, it dawned on him, he wasn't happy, and maybe his wife wasn't either as he finds her almost dead, overdosed on sleeping pills. During his next evening shift he witnesses a woman choose to stay in her home to die with her books, he wonders why they are so important and saves one from the flames. This event and the simple inquiry of his happiness leads Guy to truly examine his life, which leads him to question everything he has ever been told. Every observation and question leads to new observations and questions and we follow Guy and his journey to learn the truth. I very much enjoyed this novel and marveled at how in tune Bradbury was with the world around him, that he was able to envision how we, as a people, would develop. He stated in early interviews he wrote the novel to point out that television was destroying and dumbing down society. Thankfully our society hasn't reached his extreme vision, but the size of our televisions, the ear-buds we wear and the bumper sticker politics show he wasn't too far from the mark. Bradbury is poetic in his symbolism adding another layer as to why this was such an enjoyable book for me -- this was a surprise as I tend to think of science-fiction novels as technical and sterile. The imagery he conveys when likens the fire hose that spews kerosene to a python spitting venom and the books that are burned to birds flapping their wings in the flames, is beautiful. At What Temperature Does an iPad Burn? On August 23, 2010 Ray Bradbury was interviewed for Time Magazine. One of the questions posed was "Do you have a Kindle or an e-reader?" He responded: "I don't believe in those. They don't smell. A book has got smell. A new book smells great. An old book smells even better. An old book smells like ancient Egypt. A couple years ago some of these book people came to me and they offered me money to put my books on the Internet, and I said to them, 'pick up your rears and go to hell!'" Bradbury's passion about physical pages is evident in a passage in Fahrenheit 451. Spoken by Faber, a man helping Montag, regarding the book he has saved. "Do you know why books such as this are important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded the details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail." How has the advancement of the e-books changed the future that Bradbury has envisioned? Would it now be easier or more difficult to rid the world of the written word? Are you surprised at his opinion of e-readers considering his background in science-fiction? The Irony of Burning a Book that is About Burning Books Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that is regularly challenged in school and public libraries for its use of language. In 1979 Ray Bradbury was alerted by a student studying the novel that the copy his school had given him was different from the original. Bradbury's own publisher, Ballantine Books, had their editors censor seventy-five separate sections in the novel. A new editor at the publishing house restored the novel to its original text and re-released the novel with notes from Bradbury about censorship. The most recent challenge of the book came in 2006, from a parent in Montgomery County, Texas who claimed the word usage and the characters taking the Lord's name in vain went against his family's religious beliefs. He admitted he had not read the book and didn't need to. I don't want to spoil the novel for anyone interested in reading it, but if you have, you'll understand why I find this parent ignorant, and the situation ironic. Fictionista Workshop would like to thank Charmaine for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review of this novel....more
**spoiler alert** In honor of Banned Books Month, I chose to review Lolita, perhaps the ultimate banned book. In speaking to people about the story, I**spoiler alert** In honor of Banned Books Month, I chose to review Lolita, perhaps the ultimate banned book. In speaking to people about the story, I found that many had heard of the book, or at least the author (courtesy of The Police, who referenced "... that book by Nabakov" in "Don't Stand So Close To Me"), but it had been read by only few and with good reason. I've come to refer to this as "The best book I've ever despised." Lolita is the story of Humbert Humbert, an émigré to the United States, who develops a passion for the twelve-year-old daughter of his landlady. He is a long time observer of "nymphets" (a word Nabakov coined and which has stuck with us), but has never before been bold enough to actually physically molest a child, though his mind has been very active. The child, Dolores Haze, is childishly attracted to her mother's handsome lodger; so is the mother, who appears to be blissfully unaware that her charms are not what keep Humbert in her home. Eventually, she makes her attraction clear and gives Humbert an ultimatum. In order to stay close to the child, Humbert marries the mother. Fortune smiles on him (and abandons Lolita) when Mrs. Haze is killed in a freak automobile accident immediately after finding Humbert's diary and perceiving his intentions toward her daughter. Seeing his chance, Humbert collects Lolita from her summer camp and they embark on a two year, cross-country journey during which he repeatedly molests Lolita, telling himself that they are a couple. Eventually, he loses the girl to another pedophile, this time one who uses her for pornography. Three years later, Humbert finally finds her, married, pregnant, and desperately poor. She refuses his request to come away with him; Humbert then pursues and kills the man for whom he was abandoned. Technically, Lolita, is a lovely book. Nabakov is truly an artist with his adopted language, combining vivid vocabulary with allusion to both classical and contemporary ideas and works. He weaves many stories within stories, creating characters that linger in one's mind long after the book is over. That is wonderfully evocative, and makes it clear why this novel stands the test of time and is still a "living" book. Paradoxically, that is also a negative. Humbert is one of the vilest characters that I have ever come upon in any novel. He is an avowed pedophile, and absolutely irredeemable. Though he gives lip service to shame, calling himself variously a "monster", "murderer", "despicable", "brutal", these are more than balanced by his assertions that he is just following historical precedent, that twelve is a marriageable age elsewhere... that she wanted it, even as he relates in an offhand manner that she cried herself to sleep every night, and notes, after yet another molestation, that "her grave grey eyes (were) more vacant than ever-for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation." Humbert bills himself as Lolita's 'dream man', but does not notice her silence when he does so. He justifies his perversion by reminiscing about a his own "lost love" at age thirteen, theorizing that his attraction to young girls comes because he was not able to consummate his 'love' for that girl. He even goes so far as to consider himself a candidate for sainthood when he considers keeping his Lolita after her "nymphet" stage ends, impregnating her, and then perhaps having a third generation of Haze "women" with which to dally. Though some critics point out that the initial rape came when Lolita made the first move, I find that judgment specious at best. The book is written in first person and just judging by the way he changes his stories about himself and his motivations (at first saying he's "attractive", later "gorgeous", and finally a "dream man") it is clear to me that he is the ultimate unreliable narrator. If we cannot believe what he says about himself, how can we believe what he relates of Lolita's actions? Written in 1953-54, Lolita was deemed "too shocking" by four American publishing houses before being quietly published in Paris in 1955. American publishers came around by 1958, when the book was a fairly big success worldwide. Lolita has spent many of the intervening years between then and now on various 'banned book' lists. I cannot condone censorship, and so do not support a general ban; however, this book is definitely not for everyone. Surprisingly, it's not because of "smut". Nabakov himself jeers at those who picked up his book expecting a lurid read, saying: "In modern times the term 'pornography' connotes mediocrity, commercialism...certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be replaced by simple sexual stimulation... thus...action has to be limited to the copulation of clichés. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust. The novel must consist of an alternation of sexual scenes. The passages in between must be reduced to... logical bridges of simplest design, brief expositions and explanations, which the reader will probably skip...Sexual scenes...must follow a crescendo line, with new variations, new combinations...therefore the end of the book must be more replete with lewd lore than the first chapters." Sound familiar, fan fiction readers? This is just not true of Lolita. Incidents are couched in "acceptable" terms, and decline in description as the novel progresses, though it is very clear that the molestation continues unabated. The true horror of Lolita is the peek inside the mind of an unrepentant pedophile, and the resultant realization of how easily his perversion was satisfied and nurtured in society. As a mother, this book haunts me. As a reader/writer, I am awed by Nabakov's mastery of his craft. At the end of the day, my mother's heart wins. It aches for Lolita and cheers Humbert's death.
Fictionista Workshop would like to thank Autumn for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review of this novel....more