Tag Archives: transistor radios

Golly gee, Mr. B

I’ve already explained the concept of a Bernstein moment. Maybe what occurred to me the other day on the train home should be called a Bradbury moment.

It’s all because I recently re-read Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s novel about a future society in which books and reading are strictly forbidden, but the noisier forms of mass media are all but required. Bradbury’s chief target was television, then still becoming a household fixture when the novel was published in 1953, but his wrath also encompassed transistor radios, which he saw as creating a wall of noise to keep out the real world. Early in the book, the protagnist comes home and anticipates an empty evening with his vapid wife:

Without turning on the light he imagined how this room would look. His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of a tomb, her eyes fixed to the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty. Every night the waves came in and bore her off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning. There had been no night in the last two years that Mildred had not swum that sea, had not gladly gone down in it for the third time.  

Trouble is, I was listening to my iPod when this scene occurred to me. I wasn’t wearing Seashells, but imagine the sport Bradbury could have had with the spectacle of people marching down the street with earbuds trailing wires like tendrils from potatoes left too long in the bag.

Does this make me one of the bad guys, Mr. B? Do I get any credit for listening to Melvyn Bragg on my iPod?

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