Fahrenheit 451 Revisited
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wonderful thing about writing Fahrenheit 451, which I called
The Fireman the first time out, was the fact that I could
run up and down stairs in the library and seize books off the shelf,
not knowing what I was going to find next, opening the books and
discovering quotes to rush back down to the typing room to insert
in my novel. It was a passionate and exciting time for me. Imagine
what it was like to be writing a book about book burning and doing
it in a library where the passions of all those authors, living
and dead, surrounded me.
I finished, I didn't know what I had done. The Fireman was
published in the January issue of Galaxy Magazine in 1951.
Two years later, Ballantine Books asked if I could add 25,000 words
to the original novella. I said that I could, because there was
so much I hadn't yet said.
the characters back and asked them to speak to me, which is how
I do all of my writing. I listen to my characters, I watch them
and I put down their reactions. I knew that Beatty, the Fire Captain,
had more to offer about his history of book burning. I knew that
Clarisse McClellan had something to say about her fancies and about
the culture she survived in. I knew that Faber, a recluse, fearful
of being out in society, had more insight and philosophy to gift
I listened to them again and in the summer of 1953 went back to
the library basement and finished the work on the longer version
of The Fireman. But I still had no new title.
at what temperature book paper caught fire; I hadn't bothered to
look up the temperature at that time. I called the UCLA chemistry
department, but they couldn't tell me. I called the USC science
department, and they had no information. I finally said, how stupid!
Call the fire department, they might have the answer. I called the
L.A. Fire Department and spoke to the chief and said, "I know
that this is silly, but could you tell me the temperature at which
book paper catches fire?"