I have never read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (long story short, I have issues with classics, which is a little ironic for a former English major). I had no interest in it, other than knowing people considered it a classic and something pretty damn special. I knew people banned it. Which, when you think about it, is terribly amusing (or at least for me). To have a book about the ultimate banning of books being challenged and banned itself? Maybe the irony drives the point home even farther.
I am rating Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation graphic novel a five not because it is the best book ever, but because it was a great introduction to the story. It showed a piece of history that we are repeating. And not just once or twice, but several times over the years since the book was first published. The graphic novel is the ultimate CliffsNotes but still the book. Illustrator Tim Hamilton hits the nail on the head with the literally seeing the flames coming off the page (you see the books burning, even the people when they too are engulfed by flames), the emotions of the Fireman, the panic of his wife’s friends when he reads them poetry. We even see the wife’s dead features: the person who is “so happy” yet still wants more; who may or may not have tried to take her own life more than once. Or the fact you do not see the people, faces or other things around them (houses, trees, the Fire Hound). There are shadows everyplace. They hide and reveal at the same time. The incompleteness of the details, backdrop, the faces even are haunting, but they are the metaphor of the darkness everyone is in. Or seems to be.
The story we mostly know: Firemen start the fires that burn books. People are turned in by their friends for the crime of knowledge. Not having read the original I am not sure what lines have been transferred into the graphic novel text, but there are some simple lines that are gut punches. This adaptation was powerful. I can only imagine the impact it would have had on 1950’s America. The implications of this book are timeless. Perhaps it was a comment on World War II and Hitler or Communism. But we are seeing this again today. This book, sadly, is as relevant today as it was in 1953 or 2009 when the graphic novel was first published. Bradbury wrote a new introduction for the graphic novel.
I am including the Wikipedia link to show how the meaning of the book can be adapted to fit needs, or to show how easy things can change within a few years. Bradbury knew this book would live on long after he did. Now I have read the graphic novel, I actually want to read the original and see what was I missing all these years.