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http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-45...

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Bradbury still has a lot to say, especially about how people do not understand his most literary work, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. It is widely taught in junior high and high schools and is for many students the first time they learn the names Aristotle, Dickens and Tolstoy.

Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury’s authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship.


Poor Ray. You're right, someone here doesn't get something, but unfortunately that someone is you.
 
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Drew1365 wrote:

As in Huxley's Brave New World, the people are mostly self-oppressed. This is in stark contrast to the other member of the "big three" dystopian novels: Nineteen-Eighty-Four.


thumbsup I was struck by the similarity of these two when I read Brave New World.
 
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It is not incorrect to say there aren't anti-TV themes in the book. But to deride any other interpretation -- including the interpretation that a book in which a government-employed man is paid to burn books is about government censorship -- is "wrong"? That's hubris.

Let me guess. Was Montag a replicant, too?
 
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I believe Bradbury is saying that Fahrenheit 451 is not primarily about government censorship, in the same way that Moby Dick isn't primarily about hunting a whale. That whale could have just as easily been a tiger or an elephant or bigfoot. In Bradbury's novel he could have just as easily had the people destroying their own books as the government doing it. If the people are not reading the books anyway, what difference does it make if they get destroyed, or who destroys them?

Government censorship does occur in F451, though. There is no denying that. With the government destroying all of the books, the people would have a much harder time becoming booklovers again if they chose to do that. And some of the characters do make that choice.
 
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Legomancer wrote:


Let me guess. Was Montag a replicant, too?


No, he was actually infected by "midiclorians" that made him rebel against authority.
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Drew1365 wrote:
Well, this starts to touch on the issues of deconstruction vs. authorial intent.


That's the part that I find most interesting about this topic. Is the subject of the work what the artist intends, or is it what the audience derives?

And does it matter that we've been "wrong" for 50 years? Essentially, he just made thousands of people re-read the book with a different mindset. The ideals that were taught that sprung from the interpretation of the book aren't rendered invalid by his revelation.
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Drew1365 wrote:
Well, this starts to touch on the issues of deconstruction vs. authorial intent.

Although there is the question of authorial intend when the book was written vs what the author says he intended 50 years after the fact. It is entirely possible that the book was originally intended to make a point that the author no longer believes.
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Follow that link to the video interviews and watch the one about what inspired him to write F451.

He doesn't mention any TV, but he does mention a run-in with governmental authority harrassing him in a fascist manner.

I have a feeling this "ha-ha, you jerks don't know what I really meant" business is just another previously-relevant author struggling to feel like he's still got the edge. It's the same thing that always pissed me off about George Lucas. "Nuh-uh! I MEANT for Darth Vader to build C-3P0 even when I wrote the FIRST one!"

Bullshit. Bradbury is now a crazy old man who's talking shit so people will pay attention to him. If F451 was about TV, I think he'd have said something at some point over the past 40 years. I call shenanigans, Ray.
 
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Drew1365 wrote:

Either way, authorital intent -- or to put it another way, what the author was trying to say when he wrote the book -- is what matters most.


Do you think Lucas intended for the character of Boba Fett to get such a rabid cult following when he wrote it?

Do you think Shakespeare intended for even half of the interpretations readers have taken from his works?

You can say that what the author was trying to say when he wrote the book is what matters most, but NO ONE but the author will ever read the work with a framework that maps onto that with 100% accuracy. Every other reading is a misreading to one degree or another.

I'd much rather think that what the reader is getting out of the book when he reads it is what matters most.

-MMM
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Legomancer wrote:
http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-45...

Quote:
Bradbury still has a lot to say, especially about how people do not understand his most literary work, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. It is widely taught in junior high and high schools and is for many students the first time they learn the names Aristotle, Dickens and Tolstoy.

Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury’s authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship.


Poor Ray. You're right, someone here doesn't get something, but unfortunately that someone is you.


I knew I was right. I always said this, but my english teacher disagreed. Now if only I could show her. Ah well, at least i was right.

And just because people think they know what someones trying to say doesnt mean that the guy said it is wrong, it just means all those people who overthink something got it wrong.
 
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Drew1365 wrote:

The point is to try to find out what that author had in mind, not to come up with a far-fetched interpretation and make it stick.


Okay Drew, I love a good debate, no matter which side of the argument I'm on (if I'm on one at all); and you've made some excellent points here. But certainly you're not implying that a government cencorship interpretation of F451 is "far-fetched?"
 
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Drew1365 wrote:
For example, several years ago I read a scholarly critique of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that insisted the book was a Freudian nightmare of epic proportions.


Wait, are you claiming there's an interpretation of the Wardrobe that's NOT sick, sexual psychodrama?
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Does the intent of the author ever matter in a practical sense? Isn't the point of art to generate a reaction from those that experience it?

The author of a book might feel he has failed if people see his creation in a way that is very different from what he intended, but in my mind, that's his problem and his alone. If it inspires people, or makes them think about some issue in a different light, it's still art.
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Drew1365 wrote:

For example, several years ago I read a scholarly critique of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that insisted the book was a Freudian nightmare of epic proportions. The wardrobe, lined with fur coats, was of course, a vagina, and the children entering the wardrobe was intended to evoke a return to the womb. Aslan was stuck in the oral stages of development (all the roaring and breathing); Peter was having his first sexual encounter when he took his "sword" and killed the wolf. It went on and on like that.

Deconstructionsists will claim that that is a valid interpretation of the book. I say the hell it is.


I don't mean to sound as if I'm endorsing the above interpretation, but are you to have us believe that authors are capable, moreso than other people, of understanding their own psyches and the exact origins of their creative expressions? Is it so impossible for someone other than the author to have insight as to what an author was unconsciously tapping into?

-MMM
 
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Drew1365 wrote:
Octavian wrote:
I don't mean to sound as if I'm endorsing the above interpretation, but are you to have us believe that authors are capable, moreso than other people, of understanding their own psyches and the exact origins of their creative expressions?


Yes.

Seems quite obvious to me. Moreso if you apply Occam's Razor and all that.


Oh, I have...of course, I also understand that it's much more difficult to understand one's own psyche than it is to understand the psyches of others. Difficult to get a good perspective of your own perspective. All we can really manage is to catch glimpses of our own perspectives as they are reflected back to us through others.

That's not to say we can't THINK we know why we do things. We're quite good at rationalizing such things after the fact.

-MMM
 
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Ray Bradbury always claimed that he woke himself up at intervals all during the night to record his dreams. Anybody as frazzled and sleep-deprived as that practice leaves you can hardly be expected to remember what he wrote about ten minutes ago, let alone 50+ years. Now he's not only sleep-deprived, but he's senile as well, and probably has five forms of dementia. If only he hadn't banged that ice queen in Narnia when he was a toddler, things might have gone differently for him.
 
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Drew1365 wrote:
...it gets hung on the censorship hook because that's such an easy approach to it. It's a quick way in, and that issue tends to galvanize, polarize, and cause a lot of people to become properly outraged in a way they can feel good about. But censorship is really only what happens in the book. Pigeonholing it that way leaves out the whys. And the whys are kind of important.


thumbsup

Drew1365 wrote:
I think when this book is taught (because that seems to be how most people encounter it these days)


You know, there were many "classics" that are usually assigned in school which were never assigned to me, and this was one of them. About six or seven years ago I decided that I wasn't nearly well-read enough on classic literature (to include "modern classics").

I embarked on a program of reading almost exclusively classic literature or history for a few years. I've since interspersed contemporary literature into the mixture, but the point is that I've found that the classics are much more enjoyable now, when I can read them without trying to guess what a teacher thinks the themes are, or worse, conform my analysis of the book to what the teacher has already stated the themes are.

What I often wonder about when I'm reading something, is whether the author intended the book to be a "message," or just an entertaining read. I'm sure that many times the answer is both, but I wonder if just as often (if not more) the answer is the latter.

For instance, in my opinion, 100 years from now, students will likely be assigned to read Stephen King. I believe that he is probably the closest active writer we have to a modern day Charles Dickens. Now, does King, especially earlier in his career, sit down to write a book with a message in mind? I don't know, but the question intrigues me.

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For me, if one interprets a book, the only question is: can it be supported by the text. That is, if you want to tell me that Jane Eyre is a cunningly disguised robot ape from the future, you'd better be prepared to produce evidence from the book to support this claim. If you can, kudos. If you can't -- and even if you're the author -- too bad. It's not in there. If you meant to put it in there, tough rockos. It's either in there or it isn't.

Any claim of interpretation -- including the author's -- has to pass a very simple test: supporting it by the material in the book. You don't get extra points for having written it.
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Drew1365 wrote:


Totally different subject here. And I disagree. I think we're much better at knowing ourselves than we're often given credit for. But several generations of psychotherapists have convinced us otherwise. Because, after all, they need a paycheck, too.



Ah...and climitologists are trying to convince people about global warming becasue they need a paycheck too - nothing to do with the fact that scientists might know a thing or too about the field they study.

Full disclosure, I'm finishing up my PhD in Social Psychology. The science certainly indicates that we are not very good at knowing ourselves. But people would much rather believe the opposite for obvious reasons

Back to the interpretation of literature, from either of our points of view it seems that placing the most importance on the author's original intent would be folly. From your perspective only the author can really know his intent so why bother to read as we will only be making a misreading. From mine, the author isn't fully privy to his own motivations.

Power to the reader, says I.

-MMM
 
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Drew1365 wrote:

I'm curious how the Stephen King who writes Christine and Carrie can be the same Stephen King who writes Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.


It's quite curious and one reason he's my favorite modern author. Incidentally, there are probably more parrallels between Carrie and Shawshank than you might guess.
 
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Hey...Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus and still ended up doing okay.

-MMM
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A novel can be "about" more than one thing.

War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, Crime and Punishment. Of Mice and Men...
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Drew1365 wrote:
Legomancer wrote:
Any claim of interpretation -- including the author's -- has to pass a very simple test: supporting it by the material in the book. You don't get extra points for having written it.


I would agree with that. So going back to your original post . . . read Fahrenheit 451, keeping in mind Bradbury's recent claim. I think you'll find that what he says about television is in there . . . again and again and again.



I'm going to agree *and* disagree. I will agree that Bradbury had quite a distaste for technology in *many* of his books, so his "new" interpretation seems sound based on the distaste for technology that is found in Fahrenheit 451. Clearly, it was one of the themes of the book, and a strong one.

However, I don't believe the censorship interpretation can be ignored. Perhaps not even demoted to a sub-theme, considering the fact that technology was an opiate-of-the-masses and the government was more than happy to dispatch of the books. There must be something for such an opiate to be hiding the masses attention from, after all, otherwise it is simply entertainment... and there must be something that creates the incentive for the government to provide the fireman "service".

I refuse to go as far as the deconstructionists however; they live only to imagine interpretations in the shadows of a story to continue their tenure... they rarely have anything to say of worth. I suspect most of what they say is a reflection of their own warped minds... any work is fair game to project upon.

EDIT: And that's why I'm not an author.
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captkayoss wrote:

You know, there were many "classics" that are usually assigned in school which were never assigned to me, and this was one of them. About six or seven years ago I decided that I wasn't nearly well-read enough on classic literature (to include "modern classics").

I embarked on a program of reading almost exclusively classic literature or history for a few years. I've since interspersed contemporary literature into the mixture, but the point is that I've found that the classics are much more enjoyable now, when I can read them without trying to guess what a teacher thinks the themes are, or worse, conform my analysis of the book to what the teacher has already stated the themes are.


I did this too. First on my list was Ulysses. I got about thirty pages into it, rightfully declared to be the biggest pile of horseshit ever penned by man, and I've been playing the XBox ever since.
 
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Octavian wrote:


Ah...and climitologists are trying to convince people about global warming becasue they need a paycheck too - nothing to do with the fact that scientists might know a thing or too about the field they study.



Little off topic here but I know a couple of researchers that are studying global warming and are doing so because "that's where the grant money is."
 
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