Sunday, September 27, 2009


pencil drawing of a hand reaching for books through a guillotineFahrenheit 451, (1953)

Ironically, Bradbury's indictment of censorship has itself been repeatedly censored. Fourteen years after its initial release, some educators succeeded in persuading its publisher to release a special edition. This edition modified more than 75 passages to eliminate certain words, and to "cleanup" two incidents in the book (a minor character, for example, was changed from "drunk" to "sick").

When Bradbury learned of the changes, he demanded that the publishers withdraw the censored version, and they complied. Since 1980, only Bradbury's original text has been available.

As a result, some schools have banned the book from course lists. Through all these attempts to sanitize or banish it completely, Bradbury has remained diligent in his defense of his masterpiece, writing in a coda that appears in some editions of the book:

"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib / Republican, Mattachine / FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse….Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever. ..."

"Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony."

Do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.

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