Project Fahrenheit 451: An Introduction

One of the purposes of this blog —  aside from giving me a place to proselytize — is to keep track of the projects (great and small) I take on in the next two years of school. So far, I’ve been much more focused on the large projects (figuring out how to live ethically, submitting stories, searching for jobs, writing a novel) to think about what else I’d like to add to my goals this year.

But lately I’ve been thinking a more approachable project might be just what I need to feel like I’ve accomplished something every day. Also, new ideas make me happy.

So. My newest project.

At the end if Fahrenheit 451, our protagonist, Guy Montag, meets up with a vagabond band of book lovers outside the city, all of whom have memorized a text or part of a text. They became the books that the firefighters were trying to destroy, preserving them in their own memories for a time when people would want to return to reading. Montag admits he knows some of the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Revelation, and they incorporate him into their library of people.

It won’t surprise you that this was my favorite part of the book. Amid the destruction and dubious tone of the ending, here is this lovely idea: that the great books of our society will survive through people.

(Anecdote: If you don’t believe people can become books, I once saw a man reciting Dante’s Inferno in Florence — we watched him for nearly an hour and he showed so sign of stopping when we left.)

After Bradbury died, I sat down and reread Fahrenheit and the last chapter made me wonder. If I was going to become a book, to memorize the text of something to preserve it, what would it be? Now, as you can imagine after my post about reading and choosing favorite books, etc., this was no easy task. But for the sake of this project, I did settle on a book I love: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

The goal of the project is very simple: I’m going to see how much of Frankenstein I can commit to memory. The edition I own is about 200 pages long. If I learn a page a day, it will take just over 6.5 months to memorize the book.

Please understand, I’m not at all confident I’ll succeed. Prose is much harder to memorize than verse and Frankenstein is something of a dense read, despite its slight length. But in this case, the value of the project in my view isn’t whether I succeed or not. It’s the undertaking. And I’m excited to try. I haven’t had to memorize anything since college, so it will definitely be a challenge.

For the blog this means once a month, for the next seven months, I’ll update you on my progress. And if you’re interested, readers, I wouldn’t mind some company. Something to try? It could be important when society as we know it collapses.

What is your favorite passage or poem that you know by heart? Or, if you could memorize any text, which would it be? 

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6 thoughts on “Project Fahrenheit 451: An Introduction

  1. Oh dear god. LOVE. (Also, love that memorizing Frankenstein is your idea of an approachable project. No snark, just love.)

    My mom once did something like this with Shakespeare’s sonnets; she was working a crappy monotonous job all summer in her semi-misspent youth, and distracted herself by memorizing a sonnet a day. And I’m thinking, if you want company, I could try this with “Hamlet.” (Which, upon practically zero reflection, I decided is obviously the text I’d like to preserve above all others.) Kind of a cheat, given the whole verse/prose thing, but it would also involve the Player King’s monologues, which I think evens the playing field a little bit. 😉

    • I did have a moment of, “Self, are you sure you don’t just want to learn how to weave baskets or something?” before I posted this. But what fun is a project if it’s not slightly crazy?

      Of course you should memorize Hamlet! There’s really no other possible answer to that question. And I don’t think anyone would call it an easy text to learn, y’know, in its entirety.

      Though, seriously, Walton’s letters are kicking my ass. XD

  2. I’m pretty bad at remembering things word for word, but a high school teacher made me memorize the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales and Macbeth’s “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” monologue. They’re not in my conscious brain anymore, but I assume they’re in there somewhere. If I could remember one piece of literature perfectly, it would be the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. If I could memorize a whole book, I’d go for either Walden or Gatsby. They are both painfully beautiful on multiple levels.

    • When we did our yearly Shakespeare play in high school, we had to pick a soliloquy to memorize. And we also had to learn a poem/passage for the Transcendentalists in AP Lang.

      I seriously, seriously considered Walden. Who knows–if this works, maybe I’ll add it to my repertoire. 😉

  3. What a cool project! It would be really neat if it was like a whole thing, like a worldwide project. (Nerdfighters?) I know it’s quite late, (How did I miss this one?) but I think I could only memorize something that I felt I could accomplish, or I wouldn’t get very far. I wanted something pretty, thoughtful but not too lofty, and tangibly memorized. I came up with the complete poems of ee cummings. I think the hardest part would be remembering where the lines end & begin 🙂

    • Man, remembering line breaks would be murder with cummings! I feel like you’d need to create some sort of mnemonic device specifically for the breaks…

      I thought it would be really cool for this to be a big project, but seemed sensible to try it out first before I pay for a domain-name and start demanding other people become books. XD

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