Monday, October 19, 2009

Graphic Novel Monday: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton. Published 2009 by Hill and Wang (Macmillan).

Click here to buy Ray Bradbury's Fahreheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, via IndieBound.org. I'm an IndieBound affiliate.

Ray Bradbury's famous novel Fahrenheit 451, originally published in 1951, is a standby on high school reading lists, a book about the power of literature to educate, enlighten and expand one's experience of the world and of life. It is also an indictment of mass media, especially television. In the novel, people see stories only in visual form- in pictures still or moving. Ironic then that Bradbury authorized the retelling of his story in graphic novel form.

That story concerns Guy Montag, a "fireman" who starts fires rather than fights them- fires that destroy books. He meets a young woman named Clarisse who leads him to ask questions; eventually he starts collecting books in his home until he's discovered. Tim Hamilton's noirish artwork is arresting and very appropriate to the oppressive, hopeless atmosphere, but overall the book just didn't work for me.

Too much of Bradbury's writing is missing; boiled down to graphic novel form, the narration is mostly gone and what's left is mostly just dialogue. It was too much like reading a script and not enough like reading a book. I had a hard time paying attention and frequently put the book down- and it was very hard for me to pick it back up. And though the art is very accomplished, it just wasn't enough to hold my attention. The last graphic adaptation I read, of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, was similarly unsatisfying despite being incredible visually. I wonder if the graphic novel form isn't really right for adaptations- if the form is just better suited to original storytelling, where the words and images are designed to work together from the start. There are lots of great things in the graphic novel section of your local bookstore or library but I'd pass on this one if I were you.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

10 comments:

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Hmmm...have I ever read a graphic novel? Nope! Can't stand graphics in novels...hahahaha

An Anonymous Child said...

Hmm... I actually didn't really like "Fahrenheit 451" very much. I liked the dialogue and bits of the story but I felt the writing dragged it down a little and didn't pick up quite as much as it could have. I wonder if this means I'll enjoy the adaptation more...? Interesting to know your thoughts, as always.

debnance said...

All I had to read was the title of this post to know that this is a book I must find. My husband and I were both reading the same Bradbury book when we met. I don't think my esposo has ever read a graphic novel. I must find this one and share it with him.

John A. Walsh said...

I couldn't agree more with this review. The text that was chosen to accompany the art felt too stripped down, too bare, too much like an afterthought.

I think that the true power of graphic novels does indeed rest in original works. As I've told anyone that will listen: graphic novels need a "Grapes of Wrath" type novel - something of incredible weight and substance.

bermudaonion said...

Yeah, I can see where this book wouldn't translate well as a graphic novel.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I wonder if making it graphic wasn't an attempt to bring it to new audiences. It does seem like the book would lose a lot with only the dialogue represented.

justareadingfool said...

I have this one on my shelf and have started reading it, but haven't picked it up since. Now I think I know why. Thanks for confirming for me why it wasn't working.

MLO said...

John, Are you familiar with Maus?

Zibilee said...

I loved Fahrenheit 451, but I can understand what you mean about it not working as a graphic novel. The book is packed with lots of complex ideas and situations that I can imagine would be hard to capture in a graphic novel. Thanks for your insight on this one, I think I'll probably skip it.

jewwishes said...

Good review. I am an avid Ray Bradbury fan, and Fahrenheit 451 is one of my all time favorite books of his.

I think I will pass on the graphic novel.