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Fahrenheit 451 Revisited
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Summer 2002
Fahrenheit 451 Revisited

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451 BookWith 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
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By Ray Bradbury
Book Jacket Published with permission from Ballantine Books

Sometime 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.

Since 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."

A little 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 novel.

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