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2002 Summer
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
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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