I realized recently that although I’ve seen the movie twice, I had never read Fahrenheit 451. In fact it had been years since I had read any Bradbury. So I picked it up last night and started reading. And didn’t put it down until the end. I have seldom seen such sustained intensity and passion in a novel. If done less skillfully it might seem a bit over the top, but in Bradbury’s hands it works.
The Truffaut movie, though quite good, does not really do justice to the novel. You come away from the movie with the experience of a popular culture made homogeneous and vapid by the continuous onslaught of mind-numbing television. But the novel really explores the political aspects of this: the way that dumbed-down commercialized pabulum is convenient for the political elite and profitable for corporations. Written in 1953 I don’t think Bradbury could have realized how accurate his prediction of wall-sized televisions continually showing loud, content-free programming was. And could he really have foreseen that we would become a nation of perpetual war?
I also liked that the novel did not have the happy ending of the movie. There is genuine tragedy in the novel, and the only hope is that generations hence some part of what was lost might be remembered.