High School reading lists and censorship

I just finished reading the great novel “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. Perhaps you remember this book from high school. It used to be on required reading lists across the country. You probably remember that this was a book entirely about censorship. It was originally published in 1950. Later versions and editions were printed in the ’60’s, ’70’s, and ’80’s.

This book is fascinating. Being a reader and lover of the written word myself, I was appalled each time I read that more books had been destroyed. The society had been so “dumbed down” that they could no longer grasp the idea that they might not like something. People were always supposed to be happy. Few characters could recall any of our nation’s history. Television, or their model of it, had invaded the entire living space of most homes. It was a model of how important reading the written word can be. Without knowledge of history and the ramifications of the actions we take, people allowed themselves to be controlled by those in power. Books can be very powerful.

Having been so delighted with the content of this book, I could not put it down when I finished reading the main body of the text (that really is a quirky habit I have). So I read the author’s comments at the end. This is where it became profound!

I was reading from the 1988 edition and in the “Coda” the author described events that had happened in 1979. I can’t improve on his text, so I’m going to share some of it directly, but be reminded that this is a book about censorship.

“Two weeks ago my mountain of mail delivered forth a pip squeak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to re-print my story ‘The Fog Horn’ in a high school reader. In my story, I had described a lighthouse as having, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was ‘God-Light.’ Looking up at it from the viewpoint of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was ‘in the Presence.’ The editors had deleted ‘God-Light’ and ‘in the Presence.’

“The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.

“Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony.”

This was written by Ray Bradbury in roughly 1979.  1979!! So here we are 35 years later. Has censorship ended? Has it even slowed down its pace? What forms of censorship are we seeing now with so many ways to “burn a book?” What is being used in place of “lit matches?”

I won’t be censored. I’ve set up this blog with hopes of offering an opinion, sharing the truth, writing for fun. This blog will offer insight into difficult subjects without intentionally diminishing honorable and decent people. It will be a place where you can look for honesty. And sometimes, I may just write about something exciting that happened in my day. Don’t you just love technology?

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