Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Club

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is my much loved copy.  It's worn, the cover is faded, and the pages are falling out.

Two of my favorite passages come at the end of the story:

"There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up.  He must have been first cousin to Man.  But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again.  And it looks like we're doing the same thing, over and over, but we've got one damn thing the phoenix never had.  We know the damn silly thing we just did.  We know all the damn silly things we've done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we'll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them.  We pick up a few more people that remember every generation."

"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said.  A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made.  Or a garden planted.  Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.  It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away."

And perhaps the best one-liner:  "Stuff your eyes with wonder."

Fahrenheit 451 is a bleak story of the future, but Bradbury gives you such hope in the midst of it all.  Hope that mankind is really better than war, death, and crime.  Hope that even when things seem impossible to change, we can change them.

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