Inextinguishable: An Optimist Reads 1984 and Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 both depict a future devoid of thought, but not awareness. The protagonists, Guy Montag and Winston, are interchangeable in their demeanor, so I don’t need to specify which belongs to which novel. Both recognize that something isn’t quite right in the worlds they live in, with Winston referring to an ancestral memory that is his only hint into the way things once were. Guy Montag questions whether books were always burned, and thanks to his boss, Captain Beatty, he learns that in fact, no, books were not always burned. Books asked questions that could never be answered; they encouraged dissent by always challenging present ideas, ideas held sacred, and so books were deemed dangerous—not only dangerous, but unnecessary. 1984’s world also roots out dissenters, purging anti-Party terrorists for the continuation and assurance of party purity. Rather than burn the past, though, like in Fahrenheit 451, 1984 preserves the existence of the past, but with heavy alterations, edits, and revisions—this is no past at all, Winston observes. Continue reading Inextinguishable: An Optimist Reads 1984 and Fahrenheit 451

Witness

Month 4 down. It’s time to take stock.

Porn is blocked in China and fireworks are illegal. Both, you might argue, pollute in their own way, but I’m a big fan of living in moderation, so I wouldn’t agree. I’m also a depraved individual who likes bright lights, so I wouldn’t be easily convinced, either way. While I don’t think I’ll breathe my last breath in Nanjing, I’m convinced the poor air quality here has contributed to it. On days when the Air Quality Index shines orange or red, indicating the intensity of pollutants in the air, I get the sensation of inhaling vaporized metal, both in the rusty, smoky smell akin to that of soldered chips flying from the grinder that presses against smoothing metal, and in the phlegm that accumulates in my throat throughout the day. Chinese men and women spit—a lot. It was quite off-putting when I first witnessed the phenomenon, and incredibly disconcerting when I would hear the cooks in the restaurant do it, too. But it’s a habit that emanates from necessity, because if they didn’t do it—if I didn’t do it—we’d constantly push back the mucous our bodies desperately wanted out. Like water vapor, the haze is visible, though I didn’t know it was haze when I first saw it. I remember walking across a busy intersection and seeing what I first thought was fog. Odd, I thought, since it’s early afternoon, on a dry and sunny day; I didn’t make anything of it until much later when, in retrospect, I thought, “Oh, that was haze. Interesting.”

Normally, my posts take an abstract angle at right about this point, and this one will be no different. I, however, felt like rekindling the poetic sparks that initially lit my desire to write—I’m talking my first desire to write, back in middle school. Bad writing tells you what is going to come next. It warns you and bores you with every unnecessary word inside the author’s head. Good writing is direct and demonstrative. This, right here, is an example of bad writing, but I’m doing it for stylistic reasons. I hope you’ll excuse my doing so. It’s enough to provide an explanation as to why what’s coming next, is coming next. Continue reading Witness