What You Find Between the Pages

Not a review, more some thoughts about Fahrenheit 451, a novel by Ray Bradbury.

I finished Fahrenheit 451 today. I cried twice reading it, and I can’t quite say why. I guess it’s more to do with me right now than it is about this sixty-year old story, but it’s still kind of interesting, kind of funny, what sort of things can trigger me down like that. I don’t usually show any emotion at all while reading.

So. Fahrenheit 451, the world-famous novel by Ray Bradbury. It’s the first time I’ve read Bradbury; I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it. I guess I’ve heard, of course, that it’s about a world where books are banned and burned. When I first heard about it I sort of imagined something more fast-paced, more explosive. People running to save what they can from the fire, people hiding from the flame. Burning is a strong word.

I guess in a way, this is what it’s about too. Fire take and give, and when it takes you run. But I guess I didn’t notice that fire can burn slowly, that it takes its time with its destruction, save in its belief that nothing will stop it while it eats up everything. Fahrenheit 451 reads sort of like flame eating through paper. It’s slow, and steady, and magnificent. Its depiction of destruction enchants, distract, until you realise that the paper has all burned out, that there’s nothing left but ashes.

The book, the story; it’s a ridiculous form of irony, a sort of a self-demonstration. It’s a book about burning books, and the ideas and people that were burned alongside them.

There’s this part in it where its characters were reading and reciting words from books and they get drowned in them, can’t understand a word, can’t retain a meaning out of the petty obfuscation of words, and an antagonist made it a point as to why books are useless. Too many words, to little things said, just burn them, they confuse you and ruin you. And yet that’s exactly what Fahrenheit 451 feels like. It’s so many words.

So many words, but also so many things said, between the lines and strung up between scenes and unrelated paragraphs. The mind works in so many things impossible to say with words, but words is what we have to describe what’s in the mind. So we string those words together and hope against everything that your audience can decipher even the things that are unsaid.

Fahrenheit 415 is a book about books, about fire, about wars, about comfort, about the mass media, about what you can see and what you have to make an effort to see, about people, about people. It’s a cautionary tale about the future, they say. Sure, that’s true too. My edition came with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, who said that when someone say what a book is about, then that’s probably true, but that’s not all that the book is about. It’s what you find between the pages.

So, so honestly so far I guess I’ve just been saying nonsense, trying to to explain what I’ve found between its pages. It’s a book I pick up on a couple quite afternoon, and every time I put it down for the day I can’t help feeling a bit more melancholic, a bit sadder, a bit more contemplative. And if you ask me why, I guess at this point I can’t quite articulate what in it that makes me feel this way.

Books, you know. Words. Stories. They’re real powerful. One of the most mysterious force in the universe.


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