In the comments to my post about Bradbury and authorial intent, Evan pointed out that Ray Bradbury wrote an afterword to Fahrenheit 451 against censorship:
The most important reason Bradbury can’t get away with this re-interpretation is that a few years back he wrote a postscript to the novel in which he talked about how bad censorship was. He made some very good points. I don’t know why he would back away from it now.
Curious, I looked back at my copy of the book, and sure enough, it’s in there. Bradbury states clear as day:
Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel with, after all, deals with censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony.
And if you wonder how he really feels about it:
The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.
Yet Bradbury is still mostly concerned with his rights as an author, not the right of readers to read the text (either at all, or as written). From the end of the brief essay:
The tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. […] All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I’ve won or lost. At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try.
Here he clearly feels his books are his own territory–which is true as far as the writing goes. Nobody should be editing his books for content. However, the attitude here is strikingly similar to his recent attempts to reclaim power over the interpretation of his novel. Interesting question: If he decided to edit his book now and try to destroy previous editions, would he be a censor? Would such changes be acceptable, after the book as it stands has been available for so long? I tend to think they wouldn’t–certainly literary scholars would do all they could to hang on to the original text. :)
So in this 1979 postscript, Bradbury says the novel is about censorship, at least partially, and decries censorship of his work, but via a claim to authorial superiority–at this point, explicitly only applying it to the text itself, but now he’s applying his superiority to interpretation also, to promote an interpretation which contradicts his apparent 1979 opinion (although perhaps he is only focusing on the censorship angle because that’s what he’s struggling against at that particular moment–even so, that would suggest opportunism). Interesting. Thanks, Evan, for pointing that out. I don’t know if I’d read it before.