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14 June 2005

Question: In Farenheit 451, people would learn (off by heart) one book. They would then *be* that book and could be read by whoever. If you were a book in Farenheit 451, which book would you be? (out of date meme shamelessly stolen from the internets)
I wouldn't. In many respects, Fahrenheit 451's Granger character was even more problematic than the Fire Chief.

For all his good intentions, Granger was rather pious and heavy-handed in his aim to "reform" society. His insistance of memorizing of works verbatim, rather than recording them for prosperity, is reflective of dictatorships; any definative account of prior record comes down (literally) to one man's word over another's fading recollection.

The social world in Bradbury's story largley shunned written material out of apathy and complatency; the systematic elements which ordained the destruction of printed matter were only preserving order in a limited scope. Any sense of order was was limited to a narrow power base, one which declined to offer any candor with the masses (indicated by the lack of mentioning any war taking place).

Granger, unwittingly or not, was repeating those very same actions. Unlike the prior regime, or even the outside (unidentified) military forces which attacked Chicago, he was an oppurtunist, one who aimed to secure his own share of ardor. As he ddn't appear too worried or even knowledgeable of the invaders, he may well have been as ignorant of the larger situation as the general mainstream he loathed and aimed to coddle.
posted by Smart Dalek 14 June | 17:11
That was unexpected.
posted by kenko 14 June | 17:14
Well, he just sucked all the fun out of this thread.
posted by gigawhat? 14 June | 17:16
At least we can laugh in the irony of my post; in a MeFi/MeTa/AskMe thread, it would've been deleted. =)
posted by Smart Dalek 14 June | 17:19
Smart Dalek's round, methinks.
posted by seanyboy 14 June | 17:20
I'd be a penthouse forum.
posted by delmoi 14 June | 17:20
delmoi: I imagine a grizzled pensioner sitting down next a roaring fire, the expectant flames reflected in the eyes of the listeners...
"I never thought I'd ever write to Penthouse, but the most amazing thing happened to me last Friday night. I work at a paper mill on the edge of town. Anyway, a new secratary had just been hired by my boss. As you can imagine, she was quite the stunner..."
posted by seanyboy 14 June | 17:25
but that was the only safe way to keep the books, no? i always thought the powers-that-be knew about the camp, but as long as they didn't print or write them down or anything, they were ok.

I'd be Baltazar and Blimunda, by Saramago (but i don't have the memory for it)
posted by amberglow 14 June | 17:47
I think Green Eggs and Ham would be a good choice.
posted by matildaben 14 June | 17:52
I'd memorize this book, and then I'd blow my brains out.
posted by gigawhat? 14 June | 18:04
I think i would be The Illuminatus Trilogy...
posted by Schyler523 14 June | 18:13
I would be Catch-22.
posted by dg 14 June | 18:40
I would become The Truth About Fonzie by Peggy Herz. I think future generations really need to know what the man behind the Fonz was really like.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 14 June | 18:58
I would be the Voynich manuscript. That way no one could tell when I screwed something up—which I probably would do in that situation. More seriously, I'd be Cat's Cradle. IMO it is the Rosetta stone to understanding human society.
posted by Fezboy! 14 June | 19:10
the big book of alcoholics anonymous.
posted by quonsar 14 June | 19:18
My Pet Goat. I figure then I wouldn't have to waste alot of time reading to people, and it would be easy to remember. If I was feeling ambitious, In Search of Lost Time.
posted by drezdn 14 June | 19:30
dg-I'm just finishing that now. It's fabulous.
posted by omiewise 14 June | 19:34
I'd be the McDonalds Crew Handbook.
posted by dodgygeezer 14 June | 19:57
I'd be a blank journal.
posted by deborah 14 June | 20:02
Since Cat's Cradle is covered, awwww, fuck it.

I can't play this game. I'd have to memorize more than one book.

Though I could cheese-out with Illusions : The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, but, hell, where's the entertainment in that?

Maybe I'd do some Theodore Sturgeon, say "More Than Human" or the anthology "A Touch of Strange". Maybe some Phillip K. Dick, say the VALIS 'trilogy'. Or maybe a whole mess of Ian M. Banks' Culture novels. Did someone already get Douglas Adams covered, and if so can I move in next door?

One book? You're high. Or not high enough. I can't live with one book. I can't even live with a dozen. I'd rather not live - though deborah's answer gives one hope.

Smart Dalek is pretty spot on, articulating something that's always bothered me about Farenheit 451. What, they have battery powered TVs to watch COPS on, but no pencils and paper?

Tangentially, I have a long-time friend who is quite closely related to Ray Bradbury. Apparently Ol' Ray isn't the nicest or shiniest apple in the barrel. He totally rejected and ostracized my friend's side of the family for being too lowbrow or something, and won't even deign to acknowledge that they exist. Having seen Ray Bradbury speak a few times, it's also pretty apparent that the lead in his shoes is the only keeping him floating off dangling beneath his head like a hot-air balloon.

Which isn't to say I haven't enjoyed his books. Dandelion Wine is still a favorite.

But given the fantasy choice I'd much rather have dinner with a Huxley; Aldous or Laura or both. But I'm biased, as I got to speak to Laura on the phone for a couple of hours a few years ago. That woman is soooo sharp and quick it took my breath away, and I had a hard time keeping up with her probing questions. But it'd be hard to even choose between the Huxleys and Theodore Sturgeon, too. We'd either hate each other on sight or become fast friends. I doubt that there wouldn't be any middle ground.
posted by loquacious 14 June | 20:44
I'd be a braille book. I'm a 'hands on' kinda person.
posted by iconomy 14 June | 20:50
Err, I doubt that there would be any middle ground.

*touches iconomy all over*
posted by loquacious 14 June | 20:54
loquacious, post a "who would be your ideal dinner date" thread. : >
posted by amberglow 14 June | 21:09
The MLA Handbook... ok I admit I have a standards fetish. :)
posted by muddgirl 14 June | 21:41
the big book of alcoholics anonymous.
posted by quonsar 14 June | 19:18

Good choice quonsar.

Since that's taken I'd have be Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Not because of any extraordinary physcial attributes of mine, but because I think it is a fantastic book I can always revisit and find something new in. Plus, I think it would give me some clout, I would probably get more meat and more girls rather than some wimp who memorized a little book like "The Old Man and the Sea" or "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
posted by Marxchivist 14 June | 21:53
I'd be either Catcher In The Rye, An Underacheiver's Diary by Benjamin Anastas or Ladies Man by Richard Price. If you haven't read the aforementioned books, you should.
posted by jonmc 14 June | 22:09
Nobody said Gravity's Rainbow yet? You guys are slipping; I thought there was a big Pynchon cult on Mefi. :)

One, two, three: A screaming comes across the sky...
posted by jokeefe 14 June | 22:20
Dos Passos would be good too.
posted by amberglow 14 June | 22:29
I'd be Finnegans Wake, because if I could memorize that mother I'd be the lord of all I surveyed, or at least of the riverrun.

[Actually, I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read F 451. I just kind of missed it, and I'm a reasonably well-read guy, or at least I like to think so. But I'm going back to books I missed, so that one will be on my list this summer.]
posted by omiewise 14 June | 22:41
so does ethereal bligh get Ulysses by default?
posted by Schyler523 14 June | 22:56
I actually like the movie better than the book, omie--it seems weird to read about not being allowed to read.

Schyler--he gets all of Proust. : >
posted by amberglow 14 June | 22:58

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and wood-lot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

Ah fuck it, I could never remember all that...
posted by LarryC 14 June | 23:55
I read far more novels than poetry, but if I had to live in a society without books, I'd have to choose a book of poetry to memorize or go mad. Probably selected poems by Leonard Cohen.

And the question, frankly, rocks.
posted by dreamsign 15 June | 00:27

THEN from the moorland, by misty crags,
with God's wrath laden, Grendel came.
The monster was minded of mankind now
sundry to seize in the stately house....

He spied in hall the hero-band,
kin and clansmen clustered asleep,
hardy liegemen. Then laughed his heart;
for the monster was minded, ere morn should dawn,
savage, to sever the soul of each,
life from body, since lusty banquet
waited his will! But Wyrd forbade him
to seize any more of men on earth
after that evening. Eagerly watched
Hygelac's kinsman his cursed foe,
how he would fare in fell attack.
Not that the monster was minded to pause!
Straightway he seized a sleeping warrior
for the first, and tore him fiercely asunder,
the bone-frame bit, drank blood in streams,
swallowed him piecemeal: swiftly thus
the lifeless corse was clear devoured,
e'en feet and hands.
posted by caddis 15 June | 00:49
I'm not sure (though I'm already about halfway there with Jane Eyre), but for my roommates, I would definitely choose the Larousse Gastronomique, and the OED.
posted by taz 15 June | 01:03
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.

Knowing that he sent his laundry home to his Mom while he was writing this kind of takes a bit of the wind out of its sails for me.
posted by jokeefe 15 June | 01:24
For the record I'd like to be A Prayer for Owen Meany. Because it's my favourite book ever. But it's so long, and I'd never be able to do the voice. And Hester the Molester cracks me up. And the end invariably makes me sob like a little baby. And nobody wants that in a dystopic future society.
posted by seanyboy 15 June | 02:59
I might be either Neuromancer or Dubliners.
posted by halonine 15 June | 03:36
would The Stand be too weird?
posted by Schyler523 15 June | 03:53
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
posted by Tarrama 15 June | 10:26
Fiction? Or just something likely to get burned?

Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault.
posted by safetyfork 15 June | 12:23
Any Dickens book that does not get chosen by somebody else.

Imagine a world without Mr. Micawber! Doesn't bear thinking about.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy 15 June | 18:56
No, Schyler523, The Stand would not be weird - it would have been my second choice.
posted by dg 15 June | 19:05
Neuromancer was the first I thought of, though not my final choice. And hey, I'm partway there!

The sky was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel...
posted by dreamsign 15 June | 23:28
Money, Music, Mixes. || Boy is my face red