Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Life Can Imitate Fiction in Scary Ways

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Life Can Imitate Fiction in Scary Ways

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union columnist

It's one thing to turn on the TV and watch a story "ripped from the headlines." It's another to open a book and see something even more compelling, and certainly more chilling, staring back at you.

Headlines ripped from a 50-year-old story!

For the last five weeks, some in Jacksonville have been looking at the ticker scrolling across the bottom of their 24-hour news channels a little differently --- comparing headlines about technology and war and Ben and J-Lo to the future as described by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451.

This is the final week of the second year of Jax Reads, a program that encourages people to read the same book at the same time, then talk about it. And by putting the world Bradbury wrote about in 1953 alongside the one we inhabit in 2003, readers have had plenty to talk about.

The premise behind the full title -- Fahrenheit 451: The Temperature at Which Book Paper Catches Fire, and Burns -- still feels sci-fi. We don't live in a world with where firemen respond to alarms and set fires, burning all books.

But what about a world where people pursue happiness through technology; where if televisions on three walls is good, then televisions on four walls is better? A world free of politically incorrect speech and full of mind-numbing entertainment passing for news? A world of tiny earpieces, helicopter chases, fast cars, fast wars, fast food and, despite all the ways to communicate, a profound lack of meaningful communication?

With this tale fresh in their minds -- and the story's constant thread of society controlling how, when and where people think (or don't think) -- Fahrenheit 451 readers opened up their paper last week and saw this headline:

"UNF's free-speech zone debated."

The University of North Florida eventually put on hold plans to limit impromptu protests to a small area marked by white lines in a concrete plaza. …

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