An Office Had to Be Found

In the midst of an extended bout of “reader’s block”, I grabbed an old copy of Fahrenheit 451 off the shelf in an attempt to generate some “miles on the page” this week. I read it in high school and know its place on high school reading lists, but I know almost nothing about Ray Bradbury. I found the afterword and “Coda” more fascinating than the book. He wrote the first draft in the basement of a library, paying for typewriter time, surrounded by dusty old books:

In all the years from 1941 to [the writing of Fahrenheit 451], I had done most of my typing in the family garages, either in Venice, California (where we lived because we were poor, not because it was the “in” place to be) or behind the tract house where my wife, Marguerite, and I raised our family. I was driven out of my garage by my loving children, who insisted on coming around to the rear window and singing and tapping on the panes. Father had to choose between finishing a story or playing with the girls. I chose to play, of course, which endangered the family income. An office had to be found. We couldn’t afford one.

Finally, I located just the place, the typing room in the basement of the library at the University of California at Los Angeles. There, in neat rows, were a score or more of old Remington or Underwood typewriters which rented out at a dime a half hour. You thrust your dime in, the clock ticked madly, and you typed wildly, to finish before the half hour ran out. Thus I was twice driven; by children to leave home, and by a typewriter timing device to be a maniac at the keys. Time was indeed money. I finished the first draft in roughly nine days. At 25,000 words, it was half the novel it eventually would become.

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One Response to An Office Had to Be Found

  1. Pete says:

    Funnily enough, I picked up that book a few weeks ago during a library visit with my students. I read a few pages and was not enchanted. I’m willing to feed my laptop dimes, though, if that’s what it takes…

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