Another Reason Why the Toronto Public Library is Awesome

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Now I may have already said how much I love the Toronto Public Library during the original tussle between Ford and the Librarians, but this April’s Keep Toronto Reading Festival, just gave me another reason. This year the ‘one book’ chosen for the community read was Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’. An especially appropriate choice which was combined with an online reading guide, discussions, blog posts, videos, a cross city clue hunt started by calling a mysterious number to a ‘literary resistance’. Absolutely brilliant stuff that ties in well with ‘ Fahrenheit 451’.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book, the first quote struck me as especially apt with the current political and social environment that the Harper Conservatives are trying to create.

“You can’t build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll  feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving.And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can, nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial lonely. I know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your daredevils, jet cars, motorcycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything  to do with automatic reflex. If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the Theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s only a tactile reaction to vibration, But I don’t care, I just like solid entertainment.” (p58)

“You can’t guarantee things like that! After all, when we had all the books we needed, we still insisted on finding the highest cliff to jump off. But we do need a breather. We do need knowledge. And perhaps in a thousand years we might pick a smaller cliffs to jump off. The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world,  we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees, And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.” (p82)

“Beatty chuckled. ” And you said, quoting,’Truth will come to light, murder will not be hid long!’  And I cried in good humor, ‘Oh God he speaks only of his horse!’  and ‘The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.’ And you yelled, ‘This age thinks better of a gilded fool, than a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school!’ And I whispered gently, ‘the dignity of truth is lost with much protesting.’ And I said, patting your hand, ‘What, do I give you trench mouth?’ And you shrieked, ‘Knowledge is power!’  and  ‘A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees the furthest of the two!’  and I summed my side up with rare serenity in, ‘The folly of mistaking a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself as an oracle, is inborn in us, Mr. Valery once said.'” (p103)

If you haven’t read the book yet, go get your copy from the library.

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