451 degrees is supposed to be the temperature at which paper ignites. After seeing the film version of Ray Bradbury's most famous book, one would think that it was about censorship; in fact, according to Wikipedia,
Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship, but a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context.
He didn't think much of e-books and the internet either. Last November, when Fahrenheit 451 finally became available as an e-book, he was quoted by the BBC News:
"I was approached three times during the last year by internet companies wanting to put my books on an electronic reading device," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. "I said to Yahoo: 'Prick up your ears and go to hell.'"
He also complained about the spread of modern technology. "We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now," he said.
Our Tech editor Jaymi spent time with him at the Santa Barbara Writers workshop and notes:
I think he was one of the most creative authors of our time, and he encouraged writers to go past the edge of their imaginations, to be really out there.
The world has pretty much turned out as Bradbury predicted in Fahrenheit 451, with information and knowledge "composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context." Perhaps we should have read more carefully and listened more closely.
Ray Bradbury, dead at 91.
UPDATE: Alex Steffen tweets a link to a wonderful, moving interview in the Paris Review.