Friday, July 13, 2012

Step Away from Ray Bradbury's Bonfire

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I do not like speaking ill of one of my favorite authors, just as I hate to sound critical of fellow teachers or lovers of literature, since we share common cause in learning and the life of the mind. But a bonfire is burning, Bradbury's bonfire, and we who believe we care about books had better pay attention that we do not join him, tossing to the flames the very things we thought we cherished.

Bradbury burning books? The author of Farenheit 451? What high school student has not chilled at Bradbury's depiction of those firemen of the future ferreting out books and burning them? Who has not sensed that something is terribly wrong with any group who will put the torch to the written word? Those who burn books are the ignorant, the tyrannous, the bigoted, and the anti-intellectual.

They may be us, if we do not take care. Some are more culpable than others. I once chided my wife for throwing out a manuscript of mine, but of course she would never have done so had she realized the content. And that is why those who value the content of books are especially culpable if we are party to any bonfire of the books.

But that is what I am accusing us of. We, like Bradbury, may end up destroying the thing we love by clinging too closely to the physical format of the book. As Staci Kramer pointed out in an editorial right after Bradbury's death in 2012, a terrible irony attended his passing. With so much attention to this man and his works, almost nothing of his could be found in electronic form. Why?