Friday, November 21, 2014

Listening to Ray Bradbury on the Ventura Freeway

There must be something in books, 
something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; 
there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 

Since my carpool in the mornings fell through, I've been spending a lot of time in traffic on one of Los Angeles' most notoriously congested highways. The ride to Henry's school is manageable, but the ride back can take more than twice as long, and it's difficult not to feel rage rising up, the rage that is born of rue for choices made. Something about the silence of cars, the endless glint of steel below the bluest of skies tinged pink with a still rising sun, the muffled horns and set faces of the inhabitants makes for desolation, at least for me. Why do I live here? I can't listen to music. I can't listen to the talking heads of commercial radio, nor the droning ones of NPR, and while I've learned to surrender my rage, to breathe deeply through it in a sort of mindful daze, it's been the husky voice of Tim Robbins reading Fahrenheit 451 that's literally erased it, turned frustration and a self-absorbed samsara into -- dare I admit it -- anticipation of more hours spent on the road listening?

Yes. I'll say it. Since I've been listening to the great actor Tim Robbins read the great writer and human being Ray Bradbury's sinister yet beautiful masterpiece Fahrenheit 451, I look forward to getting into my car every morning at 6:45. I spend the first half hour in the passenger seat with my son Henry who is earnestly and quite capably learning how to drive. After I drop him off, I spend the next hour or so, along with millions of other humans, sitting in my sexy white Mazda inching south on the Ventura Freeway, and listening to the riveting story of Guy Montag. I read Fahrenheit 451 a million years ago, and despite a memory like a steel trap, I honestly don't remember it other than the burning books stuff. I don't know if it's the time in my life, my stifled, seeping-out rage, the city I find myself struggling in or just the damn exquisite prose and grim prescience of the story, but listening to this novel is knocking my Birkenstocks off.

***Disclosure: Audible gave me a free download of the book but with no obligation to write about or review it. Thank you, Audible, because I know I never would have done so, and I'm grateful to not only avoid the extreme frustration of navigating the highways of Los Angeles, but Bradbury's novel is a work of art that I'd forgotten. For anyone interested, exclusive audio excerpts of these new Audible Studios Bradbury titles are available at


  1. I should check this out! Glad you found an effective outlet.

  2. Audio books make my life worth living.

  3. It also seems fitting, as Bradbury didn't drive and we can imagine how he would feel about being on the Ventura South for hours. All it ever takes, or so I believe, is one thing, one delicious or beautiful or Birkenstock-knocking thing. xo

  4. Thank god for audio books. I don't have your steel-trap memory. I forget everything except the emotions I felt while reading something.

  5. I even forgot, just now, to say how much I love that photo.

  6. Oh, yes! You get a beautiful voice in the car with you telling you a story about books and burning and life and death. Does it give you perspective? You tell this simple little story of driving in LA traffic, and I can feel the congestion all around you and your expansion as you listen.

    I've been a member of for years, and I listen when I doing various things around the house. Now I'm going to download Fahrenheit 451 and pretend I'm "inching south on the Ventura Freeway." Thank you, Birkenstock Lady.

  7. I live for the library and books on tape for my commute. Currently listening to Fried Green Tomatoes. Can't wait 'til Monday to see what happens next.

    Knocking your Birkenstocks off, LOL.

  8. Like you, I read "Fahrenheit 451" years ago and don't remember it well. In fact I don't think I liked it as much as some of Bradbury's more science-fictiony things. But maybe as an adult my perspective would be different. I should try it again.

    I'm sure this is a silly question and you've already thought this out, but is there an alternative route to the freeway that might move more quickly? Are the surface streets as badly gridlocked?



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