Fahrenheit 451 closing on reality


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This month for book club I have selected an old classic, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Bradbury wrote the book in 1953 and set it in a far-off, futuristic time – the 1990s! – where people have no desire to read books anymore.

If you were found with a book, your house was burnt down by firemen – after all, 451F is the temperature at which book paper burns.

The population of Bradbury’s future world are too caught up with technological gadgetry and mind-altering drugs to focus on reading the classics.

Sound familiar?

A few years ago, I would have described my two teenage children as “avid readers”.

My daughter read through the Harry Potter series in record time and then literally hoovered up Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, after which her younger brother quickly emulated her voracious bibliophile appetites.

But things have profoundly changed this year as a result of the siren call of Facebook and the constant beat of iPhone music.

Library book shelves have become dusty with neglect.

Take a snapshot of any teenager at play today and it will involve them simultaneously viewing the three screens of TV, computer and mobile telephone. Great if they are all going to grow up to be stockbrokers.

I worry about the next generation’s attention span. Who is going to read the classics?

Yet perhaps there is hope.

Last month, I read that the top-grossing iPad book application in the Apple App Store was T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Go figure.

But will future generations have a sustained focus, or will once literary giants become curious museum pieces?

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Kudos to you Phil for getting your daughter to read...It may not seem like it now but you have planted a seed and as the lure of Facebook fades and the video games lose their shine your daughter will remember the joy that came from reading and the incredible places and journeys that the written word can send you to.



Heinlein also wrote a very good book though the title is lost in the mists of my memory. Essentially the idiots of the world kept breeding exponentially and those with any intelligence or ability failed to do so leading to a world populated by morons all run by a very exhausted handful of more intellectually able. The solutions was to convince the idiots that there was a lovely new living complex on the moon, letters from family and friends living in the new world were fabricated and circulated and the minority managed to eventually jettison the majority into space with no chance of return. Now I am not sanctioning this idea (as tempting as it may be sometimes) but as you have said if we lose the ability to learn from and appreciate the written word where are we headed. Surely a very bleak future where lessons will not be learned from our history and imagination will atrophy allowing ideas and innovation to cease. Kudos to you Phil for getting your daughter to read..

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