“It was a pleasure to burn,” wrote Ray Bradbury in the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, and continued:
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Ray Bradbury, mi tocayo, who as you know died this past week at the age of 91, was, as you may not know, a committed anti-authoritarian, an enemy of the state, a man who loathed tyranny, taxation, tariffs, and all other forms of control, a man who didn’t believe any individual may legitimately be forced to live in any way for another human being and who for this reason antipathized all forms of governmental coercion, whether it was book-burning, book-banning, or bans on big beverages, who therefore devoted so much of his life to fighting that tyranny of the majority AND the minority, which, as he said, “both want to control you” (“Whether you’re a majority or minority, bug off! To hell with anybody who wants to tell me what to write. Their society breaks down into subsections of minorities who then, in effect, burn books by banning them”) also memorably wrote, again in Fahrenheit 451, a line of dialogue that compendiates, I think, in several ways, on several levels, his live-and-let-live ideology:
“Why is it,” he said, one time, at the subway entrance, “I feel I’ve known you so many years?”
“Because I like you,” she said, “and I don’t want anything from you.”
Ray Bradbury, RIP.