Paranoia and the Acclaimed Novel

At the risk of dipping a toe into controversy…

Everyone seems to be up in arms at the moment about the government “spying” on their communications. I must admit I’ve not been following it that closely, but I’m not sure what the great revelation is – we known for years that keyword scanning and the like go on, that GCHQ or the like therefore have access to our communications and that therefore (at least in theory) they could abuse that power.

I also happen to have just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’d never read it before, but apparently it was the one book chosen for the “Keep Toronto Reading” campaign. There are obvious reasons why – it’s set in a dystopian future where everyone fills their head with mindless TV and books are not just abandoned but banned. Less obvious reasons and a few conspiracy theories also abound but I’ll leave those to your imagination (or your search engine) to fill in.


It’s a while since I read 1984, but F 451 strikes me as a slightly lighter touch on the whole dystopian future thing. Nevertheless, it has some clear warnings to those who wish to find them there, and received critical acclaim with comments describing its world as bearing “many alarming resemblances to our own.”

So, whether or not we are sleepwalking into a police state in reality, it occurs to me that playing on people’s fears might be a good route to publishing success. At least, if one can’t provide Harry Potter-esque escapism to distract the masses and keep them “happy”!


Filed under Writing

6 responses to “Paranoia and the Acclaimed Novel

  1. Helena Hann-Basquiat

    Jen, thank you so much for writing on this — and I’m glad you liked 451 — it’s one of my all time favourites. Clarisse’s disillusionment with the banality of her classmates’ conversation topics (they name a lot of cars, or whatever, and say ‘how swell’) mirrors my own. It is always a delight when I am able to engage in interesting conversations with people — if only because it reminds me that, while the unwashed masses (I’m horrible, I know) may content themselves with 18 sequels of a car chase flick and America’s Got Talent, there are still people out there who read Fahrenheit 451. What I find alarming about the book is that while it was written in 1953, at a time when Bradbury could never have possibly imagined the Internet, or virtual reality, the interactive Television walls that Montag’s wife has, and the scripts she receives so she can participate — are so eerily prescient that it gives me chills. What it has to say about censorship — Captain Beatty’s speech about how through time, certain things offended certain groups, and so they started editing, then banning, then burning — is just brilliant.
    Oh! I’ve started gushing! Sorry, darling, I simply adore this book! So glad they’re encouraging people to read it — I hadn’t seen the Keep Toronto Reading campaign — is this something through Indigo or something? I was just down at the Eaton’s Centre Indigo on Saturday and didn’t see anything. I did, however, get soaked in that rain!

  2. Lyn

    In my neck of the woods, we have just had a government try to bring in legislation to control the press simply because they were, and continue to, get “bad press”. Alarm bells started ringing and everybody started screaming “watermelon! watermelon!” Thank God it failed.

  3. The first book ever to really make an impact on me (well, actually ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was), I read it in high school in1960. A few years ago, they came out with a graphic novel which I bought… so if you are really into this, you might check your library to see if you can get a copy… an interesting way see the story (no pun intended). Another way to ‘see it’ is the movie with the excellent Oskar Werner as Guy. I had just finished college then and was moved again.

    • I saw something about the movie online, Ted. Might have to borrow it…

      • Helena Hann-Basquiat

        Sorry to butt in, but the movie’s awful. TRULY awful. And not even in the “wow, they really left a lot out” way. It’s very German Expressionism, and went all art-for art’s sake-y, and changed major plot points and even characters around. In the film, Clarisse is a love interest, and not just an innocent girl. Avoid it like the plague.

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