Sunday, 17 June 2012

Burning the books

I was reading Ray Bradbury's obituary yesterday when I came across this fascinating fact:

His classic novel on a dystopian future 'Farenheit 451' was written in a library. Specifically UCLS's Powell Library in 1953. Their own obituary in the UCLA Magazine includes a video on him writing the book.

In the days before public access computers, the library had coin-operated type-writers and he bashed out this sci-fi masterpiece in just nine days at a total cost of less than ten dollars.*

So there he was tippety tappety spelling out the destruction of the world's books whilst surrounded by them:

"Imagine what it was like to be writing a book about book burning and doing it in a library where the passions of all those authors, living and dead, surrounded me."
Ray Bradbury 2002

Worryingly, I just found this quote on the intriguing literary blog Page Pulp:

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
Victor Hugo 

This raises several questions:
  1. What would Bradbury - a famous techno-phobe who wouldn't use a lift and thought electric toothbrushes were the work of the devil - make of his books being available as eBooks now?
  2. Are there any other books written from the point of view of a fireman?
  3. What are my library users up to and should I be watching them more carefully?
* One of the things I love about writing is that it's a really cheap hobby. So much less costly than wind surfing, collecting Steiff bears, or playing the harp.


  1. The Antipodean25 June 2012 at 13:34

    Great link... I once heard an apocryphal tale of William Gibson writing Neuromancer on a typewriter, and of thinking something was wrong with his first PC because it made *noises*. In his mind, computers were completely silent.

    1. He should have waited a bit - they're nearly silent now! I was at a literary event recently where people were encouraged to take turns writing lines of a new story on an old typewriter.... very evocative sound the tappity tappity tap!

  2. P.S. does Fireman Sam count?

    1. Hello. Sorry for delayed response - I was away

      Yes. Fireman Sam always counts! ;-)