On Thursday, April 5, the Long Branch Book Club met to discuss Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. The club agreed that the book originally published in 1953 resonates still 65 years later, although some had trouble with other aspects of the novel.
The novel’s main character, Montag is a fireman, but fireman in this postmodern, constantly at war America don’t put out fires. His and every fireman’s job is to start fires to burn books. That American society is shepherded by their government to live through media. Their families are on their screens. The government didn’t force society to become reclusive media zombies, but it takes advantage of this evolution to control what and how people think or don’t think. The wars being waged on American soil are what the government doesn’t want the people to care about.
The club members easily found similarities between that fictional reality and today’s where media journalism is too often slanted to control the news not deliver it, where characters in television shows are more real to some than their next door neighbor and there’s not a bar or restaurant in town that doesn’t have a television. “I can’t help but stare at a TV if it’s on and then I’m not talking to the people I came out with, who I wanted to interact with, but we’re all sitting there watching the TV,” commented one reader. “Yeah, and it’s fishing which is really boring, but we’re watching it anyway,” added another.
The trouble with the novel is, most of the group agreed, is that it was written in the fifties. Women didn’t work in the novel, but relied on their husbands for financial support. The characters, even the main Montag, were two dimensional and didn’t really come alive. But, most of the group were glad they read the book as it lead all to examine where our society is headed and to postulate on ways to change our course, because American society has already seen the banning and removal of historically accurate books that “offend” one group or another. “It’s a war against American History, look what’s happened to so many statues,” commented one reader. “But, ‘those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it,’” another quoted the cliché truism.
Book clubs, volunteer groups, even simply sitting at a restaurant table out of sight of a television all agreed were a step in the right direction, but fixing the current news media trends was something beyond the groups scope. Most of the club admitted to seldom watching the news, but each gravitated toward outlets on occasion that matched their personal slants. Some sought other outlets not as easily found for more objective news. Still, the problem remains, and as America is still experiencing a deep division that can be defined as CNN verses Fox news viewpoints, the only solution the group could see would be a boycott of all non-objective media. As for books banned by some libraries and schools, it’s up to each American to find them online and make up their own mind on the material examined in such classics as “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and “Catcher in the Rye,” just to name a few.
The Long Branch Book Club will meet again on May 3 to discuss Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. This novel, based on a true story is also published as 12 Strong, also the name of the current movie out based on the book. “Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy army across the mountainous Afghanistan terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential to defeat their opponent throughout the country.” Amazon.com