I’ve been soaking up some cinema classics of late, each more thought provoking than the last. Today was Fahrenheit 451 (1966). It’s another of those guilty moments where I saw the movie before reading the book. Still, the movie made me want to read the Ray Bradbury classic all the more.
Imagine a future where books have been banned completely. Firefighters now ignite flames rather than saving people from the blaze, and the kindling are the classics of the past. Guy Montag is one such firefighter with a promising career and a beautiful wife with a variety of addictions. Montag has never questioned his duty until he meets Clarissa, a curious and spritely woman who questions the anti-book laws. It isn’t long until Montag begins to question things as well.
The part of the movie I can’t seem to escape is the last scene. Montag and Clarissa escape the city to live among the book people. The book people live in the woods on old railway cars and tents–each having memorized one classic work that becomes their identity. Each person can recite a single book verbatim in the hopes that some day they’ll be called upon to return the works to print. The film ends with all the book people walking through the forest in the snow, each reciting their own book, the languages overlapping , words blending as they pace back and forth. It’s an ending that doesn’t wrap the plot up in a tidy little bow, but it’s a beautiful and profound way to finish.
I want to stand in the snow and read a book out loud with my words reverberating into the white. But what would I read? What book would I commit to and make mine? If I could save one book in the snow, which one would it be? That thought has lingered through the night and has driven me to blog.
I’m eliminating Pride and Prejudice because, at least in the film, there are twins that claim that title. I honestly couldn’t do Sedaris justice since to memorize a book is to take on that identity. Irving’s A Prayer For Owen Meany is a personal favorite as well but it doesn’t seem like a real fit for my waltz in the snow. The more I think about it, the more I believe my book would be a collection of poetry. There’s one particular poem I’ve always connected to, e.e. cummings’ “somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond.” The language brings tears to my eyes every time. I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my days reciting this poem or any of his poems for that matter.
There’s my day’s epic question answered. I feel like I can finally sleep. But I’ll leave you with the same question, if you had to memorize one book from start to finish, a book that would tie into your identity, what would it be?