Bradbury, Titles, and Selective Quoting

I seldom read Instapundit but I ended up there today by following a circuitous path. Here is in its entirety his short post about Ray Bradbury and Michael Moore:

BO COWGILL WRITES: “Prepare for a Michael Moore film debasing Sweden.”

Meanwhile, Ray Bradbury, from whose novel Fahrenheit 451 Moore lifted his title, has a low opinion of Moore: “He is a horrible human being.” And Roger Simon comments: “Ray Bradbury’s original Fahrenheit 451, as we all know, was about book-burning. Maybe Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 is actually about pants-burning, as in ‘Liar, Liar, pants on fire!'”

Finally, Jeff Jarvis proposes some blogospheric fact-checking.

From the way that was clipped, it sounds like there are two things going on: one, that Moore “lifted Bradbury’s title” (about which more in a second) and two, that Bradbury thinks that Moore is a horrible human being in general, implication here being that he doesn’t like his politics or him personally. In fact, that’s the opposite of the truth. If you look at the quote in context, such as how it appears in BoingBoing, you’ll see that it actually says:

“[Moore] is a horrible human being – horrible human!”

When asked if he agrees with Moore’s political positions, Bradbury replied, “That has nothing to do with it. He copied my title; that is what happened. That has nothing to do with my political opinions.”

So, Glenn Reynolds does what he does – cherry picking a few words out of context to give whatever impression he wants it to have. It’s always nice to have a reminder why I don’t read Instapundit.

As to Bradbury’s point, he has none. There is no copyright on titles, and no expectation that anyone needs ask for any permission to riff off or even reuse a title. Bradbury’s been writing for 60 years, you’d think he would know this. In fact his new book is titled The Cat’s Pajamas and a cursory search of Amazon shows 8 other books with that title. Perhaps those people should declare Bradbury “a horrible human being.” It’s sad to see Ray, a writer who has written so much good work of real meaning to so many people has to get back in the spotlight making an asinine statement like this.

Update: Here’s a post on Displacement of Concepts that further elucidates the lack of leg under Mr. Bradbury’s point.

Update #2: Here’s a guy posting some Bradbury titles taken from other writer’s works. Expect to see Walt Whitman reaching back from the grave to call Bradbury a “horrible human” for using I Sing the Body Electric.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.