The Big Read — Fahrenheit 451 re-introduces Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” to San Diego and encourages everyone to read literature just for the joy of it. Events include guest authors, community reads, book discussions, workshops and much more. Check out the full schedule here.

Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” stands both as a book of its time and a timeless commentary on the problems associated with social conformity. Readers may be surprised to find in this 1950s novel technologies of today, such as large screen TVs, interactive video conferencing and human-helping robots. The casting of viewers into characters recalls the epidemic of reality shows plaguing television today. Like many science fiction novels, “Fahrenheit 451” seems remarkable for its applicable predictions.

Yet the book also appears bound by its moment of historical production, particularly in the casting of men and women. Only two female characters are moderately developed — the teenage girl and the wife. Though both play pivotal roles in the plot, both seem more types than three-dimensional individuals. If anything, Guy Montag’s story seems to embody becoming a man in a man’s world plagued by the kind of inner conflicts and wars attached to masculine identity of the time.

Should we attempt to ban Fahrenheit 451, then, because of the damaging and marginal image of women it portrays? Not according to Faber, Montag’s professorial advisor, who says, “The books are to remind us of what asses and fools we are.”

Bradbury’s novel can remind us of how far many developed societies have come in the kinds of opportunities available to women and men. And perhaps most interesting are the contest entries for the San Diego Writers, Ink Fahrenheit 451 contest — part of San Diego’s Big Read this year — many of which revise and comment on the role of gender in their stories.

Yet they also point to the universal aspects of “Fahrenheit 451,” the problems of conforming to social norms, how blinding this process can be, that humans should not fall under the spell of simple questions and simple answers, a desire to erase complexity rather than embrace it.

I invite all to attend The Big Read events, and to read “Fahrenheit 451” this April if you haven’t done so recently. Bradbury’s ideas will surely spark debate about our own lives as well as what it means to be human in a moment of history.

Which book would I save from the flames? All of them.

And you? Post your choice in the comments below.

Amy Locklin is the executive director of San Diego Writers, Ink. She earned her MFA at Indiana University where she directed the IU Writers’ Conference for four years. She recently edited the sci-fi and fantasy short fiction anthology Altered States and has begun to edit a second anthology, Law and Disorder. Her poetry chapbook The Secondary Burial is available from Finishing Line Press.

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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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