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Hello. You walk down the street, through a clustered city that slowly falls dark, streetlights coming on like dandelions, their yellow spheres fuzzy in the haze of twilit fog and the beginnings of blustery rain. You walk along with your hands in your pockets, hood up, hunched against the cold and the dark. Do not look up. Do not see the miles and miles of cars that rush past you like a river.
Doesn't = Utopia
Do not notice that every house you walk past has the blue flicker of television fire in its eyes. In each house is at least one television, and on each television is the image of a man in a suit, telling people that the country needs to return to its traditional values before all is lost. You have headphones on and cannot hear this man as you pass him, in the dark. He is a politician and, at his word, habeas corpus again disappears from law, people mysteriously disappear into secret prisons. You are in a bad place. You are in a dystopia.
Welcome. You reach your destination, step out of the rain, shake out your wet hair, soak in the warmth of the public library for a minute. In here it is bright, there is heat, the pages of books are soft. The traffic and rain can no longer be heard, dampened by shelves lined with dustcovers. All these books in one place, all the ones that the Department of Defense did not burn, has not gotten its hands on yet.
Singularity of the Library
In here there are no security cameras, unlike at school, at the bank, at the gas station, in the grocery store, on the uniforms and in the cars of the police, along the freeways, on top of traffic lights. In here, all words are free. There are no trademarks that need to be purchased in order for you to be able to read them.
Make yourself comfortable. In here, you feel more like a person, like you are home, more of an individual and less an organic entity, full of juice and sweetness and agreeable odour, being turned into an automaton. You go from shelf to shelf and select your reading material.
First you open Brave New World. This novel opens in London in the "year of our Ford 632." This is joined by 1984, from whose pages Big Brother seems to look at you, and whose strange Newspeak is hard for you to understand. You sit down and plow through it gamely, though. Atop this book you lay Fahrenheit 451, a book about people who are not allowed to read in a land where firemen start fires.
A Little Thing Called Style
You're getting carried away by the spirit of things now. The Handmaid's Tale pulls you in with its frighteningly logical religious atmosphere and then on to V for Vendetta, one of your all-time favorites. V's speech to Lady Justice is especially enjoyable, and you don't look up now when people walk by you, when lightning and thunder rattle the windows. I can see that we're losing you, you becoming thoroughly absorbed in A Clockwork Orange. I see that you've created a nest in these books--each describing the same world but in different styles, with style--a matrioshka doll of nested universes into which you sink deeper and deeper.
I see that you are in a bubble of light and warmth that is embedded like an amber ember into a landscape as dark as coal, as thick as oil, and that you have found your escape. So now we leave you. Goodbye, and farewell.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Gaillard
Josh Pearce is a civil servant responsible for perpetuating the Party's propaganda by revising historical records to render the Party omniscient and always correct