Reviewed by Bideford Library Readers’ Group –
“Fahrenheit 451”, by Ray Bradbury.
This book was an amalgamation of five short stories written in the late 1940s/ early 50s. Any story about censorship was unwelcome at the time, so one about the organised burning of books would struggle to find a publishing outlet in early 1950s America when the ‘UnAmerican Activities Committee’ was active. At the time the only magazine to dare to print the story, in serial form, was Hugh Heffner’s Playboy!
The story is about a world where all books are being destroyed .For someone who clearly loves libraries – the story was written on a library typewriter rented at 20 cents an hour – this would be anathema to the author. It’s also a world where walking and chatting to neighbours are virtually banned, where there’s a minimum speed limit on the roads and violence is always close to the surface. War is a constant threat.
The rulers of society aim to ‘cram people full of data, full of facts so they feel they are thinking without actually thinking’ creating a world full of instant gratification where real thought and memory are eradicated.
Although much of the book feels doom laden, readers are left with a semblance of hope, for society and for literature, in the final chapter.
Much of the discussion centred around science fiction in general and dystopian novels in particular, with obvious parallels being drawn with Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. One member mentioned a recent book, set in modern times, ‘The Reader on the 6.27’ by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent and Ros Schwartz– about someone who hates their job working in a book pulping factory.
More on the Postman Poet, Edward Capern.
For the past three years I have been working on a novel based on the life of Edward Capern. Those of you who have read my previous books will know that I enjoy carrying out detailed research and this project has been no exception. I found over six hundred national newspaper articles about him and two detailed accounts written by people who accompanied him on his postman’s round. His great-great-granddaughter shared letters and family knowledge with me. Close study of the four books of poems gave me a fascinating insight into the countryside between Bideford and Buckland Brewer through which he walked and the people he met. There was also research to be undertaken into the local and national events that affected his life, including a famine in Barnstaple, the coming of the railway to Bideford and the development of the Penny Post. Parts of the novel are told from the point of view of his wife, Jane; she was a milliner in Mill Street so I read books on Victorian millinery to help me understand her life.
The Postman Poet, and the Poems of Edward Capern are available to purchase from Walter Henry’s Bookshop and other local outlets, or from www.lizshakespeare.co.uk and www.englishfiddle.com for cd of songs by Becki Driscoll and Nick Wyke.