Friday, January 21, 2011

Is That a Sex Book?

We mentioned Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 the other day. Now it's confession time: we've never actually read the thing. So much for our geek cred.

But years ago -- in grade school, so pushing forty years ago -- we read another science fiction story, one short passage of which has stuck in our brains ever since, as a sign of the sort of world that right-thinking book-burners will eventually give us.

We forget the details, but some guy wakes up from a long Van Winkle-style sleep, and goes to the library. Why does he go to the library, when he could be checking on his investments? We have no idea. Maybe to look for some old friends. And this scene ensues:
"What was that name again?"
"Edgar Allen Poe."
"There is no such author listed in our files."
"Will you please check?"
She checked. "Oh, yes. There's a red mark on the file card. He was one of the authors in the Great Burning of 2265."
"How ignorant of me."
"That's all right," she said. "Have you heard much of him?"
"He had some interesting barbarian ideas on death," said Lantry.
"Horrible ones," she said, wrinkling her nose. "Ghastly."
"Yes. Ghastly. Abominable, in fact. Good thing he was burned. Unclean. By the way, do you have any of Lovecraft?"
"Is that a sex book?"
Even as a child, we cherished the dark humor of those last two sentences, and over time we longed to read them again. But we had forgotten the rest. Who wrote that scene? In what story? Where could we find it again? We assumed that we would never know. But thanks to the WonderNet of Possibilities, we have found the excerpt posted on this guy's blog.

"Pillar of Fire." By -- we should have guessed -- Ray Bradbury. The man is a prophet.

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