The catch-up book club has got me hopping on books I should have read years ago or did read years ago and never really thought about. This seems to be one of two books my high school self just flat-out LIED about reading. I'm horrified. I have no idea why I didn't read this one, though I now completely understand why I didn't read Wuthering Heights.
"-- for how many people did you know who refracted your own light to you? People were more often – he searched for a simile, found one in his work – torches, blazing away until they whiffed out." – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
There's no point in reviewing this for the most book savvy crowd on earth, so I'll point out that my edition looks different (even though I used the ISBN to look up) and is the 60th anniversary edition.
It's twice the pages of my other copy because every note ever made regarding Fahrenheit 451 is added to the afterward. There are some great bits to be found here, including a truly whiny screed from Bradbury. He had a right to be upset because at the moment he wrote it, the book was being re-published (again) **to add in all the parts that had progressively been censored out through the years** and which he'd been getting letters from high school students about. The students appreciated the irony of his own publishing house censoring a book about censorship. He appreciated it less, I think it's safe to say.
The best part of this edition is Neil Gaiman's introduction. It helped me understand the treatment and roles of the women in this book, which I was far less sympathetic to before I read and reread Gaiman's words.
Sci-fi first turned me off as a kid in the 1970s. I think this was because most of it contained idiotic women and heroic, if also idiotic, men who always "won." The women over at GR are very angry at Bradbury, but I am not completely sold on the idea that he was just a complete misogynist. I reacted at first to the treatment of women by asking "what am I missing? clearly this had to be purposeful. This is nearly slapstick." I was told, "no, he's just a chauvinist pig." I don't buy that, but it took me a while to find the nuances and temper my own reactions.
I may have gotten overly generous at one point when I wondered how to give it more than 5 stars. Overall this is yet another book that feels before its time in some ways, enormously prescient in others and makes me worry for the US in particular at this moment, but the world more broadly too. If we had all of these lessons years ago, how can we still be so stupid?
Over fifty years later and people are still trying to match this book. I grew up in a small town in America, and had a childhood very unlike the one Will and Jim were enjoying before it was interrupted, but Bradbury writes in such a way that his nostalgia becomes your own. I felt it. The narration feels like a fairy tale, this is a book that does well aloud.
I meant to re-read this for Halloween, but I didn't get to it until the turkey was gone. <i>Something Wicked This Way Comes</i> is about childhood, and growing up, and what fear can drive people to do to each other and themselves. It is the stuff of a million novels, but Bradbury makes it work with his fantastic elements, the carnival-as-explicit-metaphor, and the acknowledgement that the character's lives cannot go back to the way things were.