Happy 83rd Ray Bradbury!

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Writer Ray Bradbury turns 83 today. He is in the odd position of having lived long enough to experience the irony of having his passionate novel against book-burning, Fahrenheit 451, censored. Even more disturbingly, Bradbury found out in 1979 that his own publisher had bowdlerized his novel by removing 75 offending sections without his permission. This was done with the aim of increasing sales to timorous high school English classes.

To be fair, many communities actively encourage their citizens to read Fahrenheit 451. As a birthday present to this grand old man, treat yourself to Bradbury's own scorching indictment of modern book banning, Censorship in the Age of Multiculturalism.

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  1. I think it was the prior link that CharlesWT was referring to. It was the circumstances of the removal of the book from the reading list (mid-semester, after a complaint about the language) that argues for classification of the action as censorship rather than a routine curriculum change. I guess there may also a certain semantic argument to be made about whether outright banning = censorship. I’d certainly consider it so.

  2. The most telling thing about the book being removed from a school reading list (in one of the links) is that nobody complained until it was crunch time and a book report is due. Crying “obscene book” is a lot easier than reading it and writing the report like you were assigned to do.

    And yes, I agree that removing a book from a reading list isn’t inherently censorship. We can’t put every book ever written on the required reading list, and this is true whether a school is public or private. But the reflexive complaint “I’m offended, so this shouldn’t be part of an educational program” is in general contrary to the point of education. Decisions on what to read should be made in a more careful manner.

    And the decision should certainly NOT be made by the person who was too lazy to do his book report. Can we all agree on that one at least?

  3. It all began, long, long ago — with a fig leaf.

  4. While Bradbury’s tearing his publisher a new one, maybe he should address that idiotic “world’s greatest science fiction writer” blurb.

  5. Since Ballantine Books isn’t a government entity, I wouldn’t call that censorship either.

  6. I don’t think Bradbury was just criticizing attempts to suppress literature by force. He was also criticizing the attitudes that would cause people to modify his works to make them more “PC”. He does have the right to criticize private entities for the decisions that they make.

  7. And to sue if they were in violation of any contracts they had with him.

  8. Sadly, access to that site is blocked by my employer.

  9. Happy Borthday, Mr. Bradbury

  10. Right on Ray!

  11. Hmmm…I would hardly call “…the book was removed from the required reading list” censorship.

  12. CharlesWT,

    Did you check out the link? I will paste an excerpt below:

    In 1967, Ballantine Books issued an expurgated version of Fahrenheit 451. Over 75 passages in the novel had been changed. Words such as ?hell,? ?damn? and ?abortion? were removed; a drunk man was changed to a sick man; and a reference to cleaning a navel was changed to cleaning ears. This edition was sold to high schools, while the unexpurgated edition was still sold to bookstores.

    The changes were made without Ray Bradbury?s knowledge or consent, and the edition went through 10 printings over 13 years before he found out and demanded they withdraw the edition. Ray Bradbury discusses this further in the Coda to the current Del Rey/Ballantine edition, saying ?I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.?

  13. Kevin: Maybe change it to greatest living . . .

  14. “Banned Books Week” is one of the great intellectual frauds of our time. The American Library Association wants to arrogate to its members, the individual librarians, the power to select books and other media in their institutions. Any objection to content, or call for age-appropriate restrictions on access are met with calls of “CENSOR!” Personally, I feel that all units of government taxing me to buy books, etc. for their libraries are censoring ME, as it reduces the funds I have available to buy the books I want to read.

    The owners of government libraries are the citizen-taxpayers, and they, not a bureaucratic clerisy with Library Science degrees, ought to be able to exercise that ownership. If that can’t be done without this kind of controversy, well, there’s one more argument for privatising all schools and libraries.

    This doesn’t change the fact that, the occasional “blasphemous” phrase notwithstanding, F451 is a perfectly fine book for a high-schooler to read.

    Kevin

  15. First, I would like to point out I am sure that, somewhere, Ray Bradbury is heaving a great sigh of relief that his book is now deemed “perfectly fine for a high-schooler to read.” Sorry, folks, but Fahreneheit is not a pleasant read for an airy afternoon read, it’s a raw look at where censorship could lead. Now, is it likely that we will end up running down alleys with mechanical hounds chasing after us in the future? We hope not.

    But which is better, having people overreact at any sort of possible censorship, or having people blindly destroy any sense of free will, leading us directly into a place not unlike Bradbury’s futuristic society? If people have to debate whether or not something is inappropriately censored at every turn, then so be it. It’s better than having no independent thought at all.

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