Several days before we were to travel, a notification from Amazon came through that an e-book was available for $2.99. ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury was having its 65th anniversary. Since it was first released in 1953, the year I was born, I thought perhaps it might be one of those very interesting full circle experiences. I missed it the first time around, and probably the subsequent four rounds, but heard about it many times over the years. I’ve only read a couple of books from the science fiction genre, one by CS Lewis called ‘Childhood’s End’, over 35 years ago, and one recently by Ursula le Guin, the first in the ‘Earthsea’ series. I enjoyed both, and thought another classic in the genre might be worth a look. So I downloaded the book to my iPad hoping it would be a good one for the journey.
I always like to start a book before our trip begins, partly to make certain I have chosen well, and partly because I find it difficult to get into a new book when in the middle of travel distractions. I was probably 50 pages into Fahrenheit 451 when we settled ourselves into the Qantas seats, ready for the 17 hour flight from Perth to London…well, as ready as you can be. That is a long-ass flight.
As I settled in I checked out the inflight entertainment to see what might be of interest. Straight away, in the ‘premiere’ category, I saw the title ‘Fahrenheit 451’. Wha???? I hate to watch a movie before I read a book…how-some-ever…I was very, very curious. A new release, it is one of the new generation of films produced by Netflix and Amazon Prime and similar production companies. I was wary but thought I’d give it a whirl. I had not read enough of the book to know if the film was adhering strictly to the original story, but I could certainly tell the visuals were created in modern minds and not trying to reflect the imaginings of the 1950’s. The story was compelling, but the book had grabbed me right from the start as well, so at least the film version hadn’t completely ruined the story line and message.
One of the visuals Bradbury uses, almost as another character in the book, are the enormous screens used as walls of the house. A person wears ear phones that connect, apparently wirelessly, with the streaming events happening on the ‘walls’ of the house. Wow. Remember, this was written in 1953, before computers, WiFi, and bluetooth ear phones!!!! Tell me more, Mr. Bradbury!
As I later discovered, the film does not follow the book exactly, but it was engaging and worth a viewing, nevertheless. It carried much of the same cautionary message to society. The story, by the way is about the burning of the world’s books in some future, unnamed year. It paints a dark view of the world.
Having finished the Fahrenheit 451 movie, and eaten a meal, I was not quite ready for sleep…like I said, a long-ass flight. Diving into the selection of movies again, I came up with one I had never heard of—‘The Bookshop’. It is a recent, British production with actors I enjoy—Bill Nighy and Emily Mortimer. Fortunately I hadn’t read the reviews of it before I saw it or I might have missed an enjoyable film! What do reviewers know anyway! The juxtaposition of seeing a film about a world without books, against a story about a love for books, which by the way, is placed in about the same year as Fahrenheit 451 was written, was utter perfection. One must keep the energies in balance!
The young woman, who is struggling to open a book shop in the 1950’s small English town is pitted against the will of another woman who doesn’t want her to open the shop. Our heroine meets an older man who is a recluse, but loves to read. He writes to her a hand delivered message (this was long before emails…) requesting she send him books she thinks he might find interesting. What do you think she sends him? A certain title, just released, by Ray Bradbury. (Fahrenheit 451)
The man loves Bradbury. Of course. The story progresses into a lovely, gentle but sad story, with a tiny dash of hope. Perfect to sleep after on an airplane.
Somehow all of this ‘book stuff’ settled into my travel-addled brain and when we popped out the other end of the second leg of the journey in London, I was hatching a plan to try and find and photograph every book store I could on our travels. A pity the plan was ill conceived. Book stores are few and the ones that exist were not at all the picturesque type I envisaged. More’s the pity.
That is until the very last stop while we were in Wales…a place called Hay on Wye. It is located at the mouth of the Wye River, near the border between Wales and England. And it is known as ‘Town of Books’. Holy moly, did they have books, and book stores. And what do you think I found? A vintage paperback of Ray Bradbury’s book, ‘Dandelion Wine’ and many other enticing volumes.
You might have thought the Town of Books was an appropriate finish for this journey’s theme. So did I. But wait…there’s more. At the end of our travels in the USA, we flew into Los Angeles to await our Qantas flight back to OZ. As I turned a corner toward the international club lounge, I stopped in my tracks. There it was in front of me, a FIVE story screen that was also a wall…a Ray Bradbury wall. Beautiful images floated from edge to edge, between ads for designer watches and perfume. I got cold chills and for a moment felt nauseous. Bradbury’s 65 year old futuristic vision was here. The future is now.
Think what an adventure that book gave me. Long live books.