Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bradbury, book burning, and a weird coincidence

As you probably know, Ray Bradbury just died at age 91. He wrote many books, short stories, scripts, poems and articles. Ray is perhaps best known for Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian novel about book burning by employees of a totalitarian government.

The title represents the temperature at which books burn. Ray was justifiably proud of the book, and today the Wall Street Journal reports that "On the tombstone he ordered a few years ago, the epitaph reads: 'Author of Fahrenheit 451.'"

Books have always been special to me (I own nearly 5,000 of them, I just calculated).

I am not religious and don't recognize the notion of "sin."  However, I've always thought that burning books is about as sinful as it gets.

When I was about ten years old, I witnessed the older brother of my best friend with a few of his classmates putting their text books on a barbecue grill at the end of the school year. I grabbed a garden hose and tried to save the books, but failed.

As a young adult in New York City, I often rescued books from itrash cans on the street. To me, the destruction of a book -- even a bad book -- is especially despicable, and Ray's book made a powerful impression on me.

It is strangely ironic that just two days before Ray's death I changed the cover of a book I am writing about book design from showing beauty (personified by Mona Lisa) to showing flames -- to imply burning books.

I'm certainly not suggesting that any books -- even really ugly books -- be burned. The flames symbolize my feeling of intense outrage. I wish that ugly books did not exist.

My book should help.

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