Tag Archives: Books

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

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Ray Bradbury

“The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caeser’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.” [Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451]

While I can’t say I’ve read all of Bradbury’s books or short stories, the one I can vouch for is Fahrenheit 451.

It was one of those “required” books that I read because I had to, but that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I think perhaps the only book I was ever made to read for school that I did not enjoy at all was Animal Farm. Somehow it just didn’t work for me and I loathed even picking it up (and this coming from the girl who actually enjoyed reading The Good Earth).

The idea of talking animals just rubbed me raw. I would have preferred them to be human. I did like Charlotte’s Web, though, and read it several times. I guess I just prefer dancing pigs to talking porcine revolutionaries.

It didn’t help much that no one explained to me that it was a freaking treatise on the evils of Stalinism and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. I just thought it was a barn yard full of talking animals. Way to go, public education!

Upon hearing of Bradbury’s death I decided to read 451 again but I’ll have to buy another copy. I lent mine to someone in college and it never found it’s way back to me. I honestly can’t even remember who I gave it to but hopefully it still resides on a bookshelf and is repeatedly taken down, read lovingly and dog-eared to death.

Books are the stuff of miracles. They transport you to a different place and time and give you an experience that you could not otherwise have. They are one of my first loves and it took me years to be able to actually write in and mark my books. I felt like I was betraying them! They kept me entertained like no fancy device ever could and the way the smelled and felt — especially the older ones — was like holding a bit of history in my hands. They are perfect in every way. I love them.

Fahrenheit 451

“Why is it,” he said, one time, at the subway entrance, “I feel I’ve known you so many years?”
“Because I like you,” she said, “and I don’t want anything from you.” [Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451]

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
― Ray Bradbury

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Where The Wild Things Mourn: Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)

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Maurice Sendak

. . .from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions. Fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives. They continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things. – Maurice Sendak

I heard about Maurice Sendak‘s passing today while listening to NPR’s Morning Edition.

I have to say that it broke a little piece of my heart.

A tiny piece that still believes I’m a seven year-old sitting in the floor of the library at Webster Elementary listening to Mrs. Gonce reading Where The Wild Things Are  for about the fortieth time.

I was a pretty voracious reader and could easily spend hours lying on my bed and devouring anything I could get my hands on.

Almost every weekend I would either check-out books from the school library, or if we were out on summer break, I would go to the public library and get books for the summer reading program.

Between playing with my sisters, tromping through the woods with neighborhood kids and the lure of a brand new Nintendo, I still found time to read.

Call me a dork. I don’t mind.

To me, reading was this sort of sacred time when I was able to be alone with my thoughts and absorb these magical words on a page that turned into movies in my head.

I became the characters and felt their emotions, embarking on their journeys of discovery and awakening, and learning more about myself in the process.

Besides Shell Silverstein, Madeline L’Engle, Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis, Sendak was one of the most-read authors from my childhood.

I appreciated these writers for not feeding me the simplified drivel that fills most children’s books. They gave me difficult words, uncomfortable concepts and disturbing mental images — and I loved it all.

Where The Wild Things Are

If there’s anything I’m proud of in my work–it’s not that I draw better; there’s so many better graphic artists than me–or that I write better, no. It’s–and I’m not saying I know the truth, because what the hell is that? But what I got from Ruth and Dave, a kind of fierce honesty, to not let the kid down, to not let the kid get punished, to not suffer the child to be dealt with in a boring, simpering, crushing-of-the-spirit kind of way. – Maurice Sendak

Sendak’s illustrations from Wild Things are something that will always stick with me.

I would stare at them for hours, taking note of the colors and lines and the playful-yet-terrifying personalities of the monsters.

I liked the idea that Max could get so close to these grotesque things but still remain strong enough in his own mind to avoid being eaten. He was able to assert his own will (unlike a in his real life) and still be loved.

When Spike Jonze began work on his movie adaptation of Wild Things it was almost more than I could stand. I would scour the internet for photos and interviews, patiently waiting for the day when I would get to see one of my favorite childhood memories come to life.

I was not disappointed.

Between the amazing puppetry, the production design and the music (Arcade Fire and Karen O. from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs) I have a new and more adult understanding of what the book was really about.

It’s amazing how beautifully the original 10 sentences were interpreted into a full-length movie.

It was much darker than I anticipated but then again that’s really what is at the heart of the book.

At an early age, Sendak became acquainted with death and loss, as his extended family was killed during the Holocaust.

His brother Jack, however, understood Sendak’s creative imagination and helped him retain his own sense of self, even as his parents longed for him to be different.

As Sendak well knew, children feel the same emotions as adults.

They feel the same love and joy.

They hurt the same and feel betrayal, loss and despair, just like their parents.

“I said anything I wanted because I don’t believe in children. I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation. ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that. You mustn’t tell them that.’ You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them.”

Mr. Sendak, you will be forever cherished by me and countless generations who demand truth, imagination and a certain darkness in their bedtime stories.

Thank you for believing that kids deserve more from their literature than a freshly-scrubbed hero who always does well in school, says “thank you” to his mother and father, and happily eats his broccoli before going to bed without a fight.

That’s an adult’s idea of what a “good” child should do.

That’s an adult giving a moral treatise to an eight year-old and it’s simply not true or real.

Children want to see themselves in their books.

They want honesty.

They want to know that life isn’t all ice cream and puppy dogs and rainbows but that we’re all in it together — and we’ll all survive — even with a few scars and bruises to serve as trophies of experience.

That is truth.