Fahrenheit 2023

“Best-selling author Agatha Christie’s books have reportedly become the latest target of sensitivity readers reworking or removing original passages in the new editions of Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries,” the Washington Examiner reports.

The novels, written between 1920 and 1976, “are being stripped of certain language and descriptions that are deemed offensive,” and dialogue by “unsympathetic characters” has been cut out. Dame Christie, who died in 1976, is hardly the only target.

The James Bond literary franchise, Time magazine reports, “will receive a sensitivity review” of the 14 novels written from 1953 to 1966. The review “will see some racially offensive language and outdated stereotypes” removed from the books by Ian Fleming. The author died in 1964, the same year asGoldfinger,” based on Fleming’s book of the same title and starring Sean Connery as James Bond and Honor Blackman as the unforgettable Pussy Galore, was released.

British author Roald Dahl passed away in 1990, and as CNN reports, his books Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, have been “revised and edited” by an organization called Inclusive Minds. 

Language relating to “gender, race, weight, mental health and violence had all been cut or revised, including the removal of words like ‘fat’ and ‘ugly,’ and descriptions using the colors black and white.” The best-selling books of Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, pose other problems. 

As the Associated Press reports, in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, “an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl.” Geisel’s If I Ran the Zoo “includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.” The books, therefore,  “will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery.” 

As the March 2, 2021 report notes, the books of Dr. Seuss “have been translated into dozens of languages as well as in braille and are sold in more than 100 countries.” So 30 years after his death, and nearly 120 years after his birth, the books of Theodore Geisel are being killed off. Way back in 1953, Ray Bradbury saw it all coming. 

He set Fahrenheit 451 in the future when the primary task of firemen is to burn books. To prevent the books from being eliminated, people memorize the full text. Every book represents a person and to destroy a book is to destroy the author. In subsequent editions, Bradbury felt compelled to add an afterword. 

A publishing house wanted to reprint Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn” as part of a high school reader. The story describes a lighthouse with an illumination like a “God-Light,” making people feel as though they were in “the Presence.” Editors deleted both “God-Light” and “the Presence” and other authors suffered similar mutilations. 

“Every story, slenderized, starved, bluepencilled, leeched and bled white, resembled every other story,” Bradbury wrote. “Twain read like Poe read like Shakespeare read like Dostoevsky read like—in the finale—Edgar Guest. Every word of more than three syllables had been razored. Every image that demanded so much as one instant’s attention—shot dead.”

Bradbury responded by firing the whole lot, sending rejection slips to each one and “by ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell.” For Bradbury, the point was obvious. 

Dan Tuffs/Getty Images. 2008

“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” In Fahrenheit 451, fire Captain Beatty described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from a book “until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.” Bradbury knew what it meant. 

“It is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics.” The world did get madder than it was in 1953, and is now far, far madder than it was in 2012, when Bradbury passed away.  

The Marxist dogma that the past is nothing but a chronicle of oppression has been institutionalized. The nation lives under the dictatorship of the subjunctive mood (DSM), and unreality rules. Book burners now come disguised as authorities in diversity and sensitivity. What they really represent is institutionalized illiteracy. 

To document and dramatize is not to approve. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is not a brief for the harvesting of whales and the Winds of War, by Herman Wouk, was not written to make people believe war is a good thing. Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are not manuals for those who want to defame African Americans. Roald Dahl was not instructing people to call others “fat” or “ugly.” 

On the other hand, some of the greatest books were written specifically to offend. George Orwell’s Animal Farm, styled as a children’s book, was deliberately insensitive to Communists by comparing their leaders to pigs. Stalinists were offended by Orwell’s 1984 but the author didn’t care. 

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury was deliberately insensitive to the book butchers of his time. He understood the dynamics and knew how to respond. 

“The tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule,” Bradbury writes. “If Mormons like not my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters.” 

Trouble is, instead of writing their own material, the modern censors prefer to mutilate the books of others, long after the authors have departed this life. The secondary—or perhaps primary—targets are those writing today.  

The various “phobias” and prohibitions act as incantations against free thought and free speech. Best to exercise your rights, write as you see fit, and call out the book butchers in the style of Ray Bradbury. 

“In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works,” Bradbury wrote. “I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book. All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I’ve won or lost. At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try. And no one can help me. Not even you.” 

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

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