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Ray Bradury's "Fahrenheit 451" - November Irun Book Club Meeting

Ray Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet 

He was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He was the third son of Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Esther Marie Moberg Bradbury. Bradbury's early childhood in Waukegan was characterized by his loving extended family. 

Between 1926 and 1933, the Bradbury family moved back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona. In 1931, young Ray began writing his own stories on butcher paper. 
In 1934, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles, California. As a teenager, Bradbury often roller-skated through Hollywood, trying to spot celebrities. He befriended other talented and creative people, like special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen and radio star George Burns. 

It was Burns who gave Bradbury his first pay as a writer -- for contributing a joke to the Burns & Allen Show. 

Bradbury was active in the drama club and planned to become an actor. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. His formal education ended there, he started selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter. 

His first published short story was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma," printed in 1938 in Imagination!, an amateur fan magazine. In 1939, Bradbury published four issues of his own fan magazine, Futuria Fantasia, writing much of the content himself. His first paid publication, a short story titled "Pendulum," appeared in Super Science Stories in 1941. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals. 

In 1946, he met his future wife, Marguerite "Maggie" McClure. A graduate of George Washington High School (1941) and UCLA, Maggie was working as a clerk in a book shop when they met. Ray and Maggie were married in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal in Los Angeles on September 27, 1947. 

Though he lived in Los Angeles, Bradbury never obtained a driver's license but relied on public transportation or his bicycle. He lived at his parents' home until he was twenty-seven and married. His wife of fifty-six years, Maggie, was the only woman he ever dated. 

That same year they married, 1947 also marked the publication of Bradbury's first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival. 

Bradbury and his wife Maggie lived in Los Angeles with their various cats. Together, they raised four daughters and had eight grandchildren. The first of the Bradbury's four daughters, Susan, was born in 1949. Susan's sisters, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra were born in 1951, 1955 and 1958. 

His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. 

Bradbury suffered a stroke in 1999 that left him partially dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. Despite this he continued to write, and had even written an essay for The New Yorker, about his inspiration for writing, published only a week prior to his death. He made regular appearances at science fiction conventions until 2009, when he retired from the circuit. 

His wife, Maggie passed away in November of 2003. Bradbury chose a burial place at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, with a headstone that reads "Author of Fahrenheit 451". 

Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a lengthy illness. His personal library was willed to the Waukegan Public Library, where he had many of his formative reading experiences. 
On February 6, 2015, The New York Times reported that the house that Bradbury lived and wrote in for fifty years of his life, at 10265 Cheviot Drive in Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles, California, had been demolished by the buyer, architect Thom Mayne . 
 Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. More than eight million copies of his works, published in over 36 languages, have been sold around the world His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum "recommended reading" anthologies. 

Ray Bradbury's work has been included in four Best American Short Story collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. In November 2000, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was conferred upon Mr. Bradbury at the 2000 National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City.  He never confined his vision to the purely literary. He has been nominated for an Academy Award (for his animated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright), and has won an Emmy Award (for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree). He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television's Ray Bradbury Theater. He was the creative consultant on the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. In 1982 he created the interior metaphors for the Spaceship Earth display at Epcot Center, Disney World, and later contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro-Disney, France. On April 1, 2002 Bradbury received the 2,193rd star on the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to literature, sci-fi films and television.  

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along."  

 "Fahrenheit 451", a Dystopia We Can Learn a Lot From

The Pedestrian, a short story which was originally published on the August 7, 1951 in The Reporter was the prelude to Fahrenheit 451. He wrote the novel in 9 days. And all was inspired by the incident he describes in this recording: 

In 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury's masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden. In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state. 

Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1953, the year the Korean War ended. The memory of Hitler’s atrocities and World War II was less than a decade old. The Cold War, meanwhile, had hardened into a standoff. In 1952 the United States tested a hydrogen bomb, and the Soviet Union followed suit a year later. A year after the publication of Fahrenheit 451, the Voice of America began broadcasting jazz worldwide. In New York, saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie inspired audiences with their dynamic virtuosity. In 1956, the U.S. State Department sent Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong on tour in the hope that their performances would spread American democracy and alleviate the tensions of the Cold War 

Bradbury repeats and expands certain images. Front porches and rocking chairs symbolize the past, a time when people intermingled without the distraction of electronic screens. The Mechanical Hound, an especially important symbol, represents Montag’s modern world and the deadly possibilities around every corner. 

As one reads Fahrenheit 451, certain themes stand out: the repression of free thought through censorship, a proper education that values books, the loss of culture and history, the threat that new technology may deaden human experience, the constant demand to satisfy immediate visual and sensory appetites, the value of authentic human interaction, and the value of the natural world. For Bradbury, our choice to use, misuse, or discard books relates to all these themes.