Fahrenheit 451 Revisited
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a bag of dimes and an idea, the author descended to the basement
of Powell Library to write one of the most important science fiction
stories of the age
By Ray Bradbury
Book Jacket Published with permission from Ballantine Books
in the years 1948 and '49 I wrote a series of stories about
book burning in world history, starting with the Alexandrian libraries
3,000 years ago, which burned twice by accident and once on purpose.
As I was growing up, I saw photographs of Hitler's burning of the
books in the Berlin streets and later on heard about Lenin's and
Stalin's library purges and assassinations of authors.
I'm a library person, having educated myself in the libraries of
Los Angeles, all of this concerned me, and the older I got the more
I wanted to write stories about libraries and books. I had written
a short story called The Pedestrian about a future in which it's
illegal to walk on the streets. A few months later, I took The Pedestrian
out for a stroll and when he turned a corner he was confronted by
a teenage girl named Clarisse McClellan who took a deep breath and
said, "I know who you are, from the smell of the kerosene.
You're the fireman who burns books."
more than a week later, my first version of what would become Fahrenheit
451 was finished. But first I had to find a place to write.
I had a newborn child at home, and the house was loud with her cries
of exaltation at being alive. I had no money for an office, and
while wandering around UCLA I heard typing from the basement of
Powell Library. I went to investigate and found a room with 12 typewriters
that could be rented for 10 cents a half hour. So, exhilarated,
I got a bag of dimes and settled into the room, and in nine days
I spent $9.80 and wrote my story; in other words, it was a dime