As many of you have probably heard Ray Bradbury passed away earlier this week. He was 91, a ripe old age, but you wouldn't have known it from the youthfulness of his demeanor. I suppose that's why I was surprised by the news and then deeply saddened that I never did get to meet him.
Ray Bradbury is one of my literary heroes. I've long been interested in writing, but a door fell open when I read Bradbury. I thought, "THIS is beautiful and wistful and dark and provocative and, most importantly, unafraid. This is the kind of emotion I want to evoke. This is how you play with language."
My first introduction to Bradbury was in 7th grade. We read his short story "All Summer in a Day" about a classroom of children in a colony on Venus. The planet is very cloudy, and so the sun only shines on the surface once every seven years. I can tell you, it wasn't a very happy story and left me feeling uncomfortable, despite the story's resolution. And it's one of his stories that has stayed with me since then; it was powerful. Bradbury drew me in, despite the initial sci-fi trappings - sci-fi (for some reason) has always been a hard sell for me, even though I usually end up liking whatever it is I read/watch - because he wrote about something familiar and true like children in a classroom and their capacity for careless cruelty and put it in a strange, new landscape.
The next time I encountered Bradbury's work was in 10th grade Honors English, when we had to read Fahrenheit 451 for class. I'll be honest, I wasn't that into it at first. The writing style was a tad weird - much more loose with the metaphors than "All Summer..." had been - and I just didn't know what was going on. Also, it was a summer reading assignment. But the story grew on me, and while it's still not my favorite book, it is a compelling, important one with themes that continue to resonate today - perhaps more so now than before.
And then I read The Illustrated Man and became a fan. I bought the beautiful hardback book From the Dust Returned and was delighted to find something equally beautiful inside. I fell in love with Bradbury's eternal family of ghouls, vampires, and dream seers. I stood in human Timothy's shoes and wished and wished that I could fly with Uncle Einar as I listened to the dry whispers of A Thousand Times Great Grandmere. I fell in love with the slippery, fluttering words, and the way they strummed my heartstrings.
I was hooked.
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” - Ray Bradbury
His writing and his attitude towards life and creativity taught me so much. His stories took me out into space and far into the future and showed me the worst of man, but they also showed why we're worth saving. They taught me about madness and love and longing and cruelty and kindness. They taught me families come in all shapes, sizes, and species, and that there is magic in ordinary places - that dark carnivals can roll into sleepy, little towns. They warned, enchanted, provoked, and moved me. I learned to cherish the past and look towards the future but to always live in the present.
A few years ago, when I was still in college, Ray Bradbury did a book tour with his biographer, Sam Weller, for his biography. I was, unfortunately, up at Berkeley at the time for school, but the Sister did me a huge favor and went for me. I never got to meet Ray Bradbury, but at least I have an autograph and a cat thanks to my sister. (Also, it's possibly better this meeting never happened because I probably would have said/done something embarrassing, haha.)
The world is a dimmer place without him, but it has certainly benefited from his prolific work.
"If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you."
Well, Mr. Bradbury, I want to grow up to be like you. Wherever you are, I'm sure you're already spinning new yarns about greater, shinier horizons. Thank you, sir, for the fantastic worlds, timeless summers, and for sharing your vibrant imagination. Thank you for the adventures, for filling my eyes with wonder, and for the memories. You're already missed.
|Not sure who did the art, but img source: Goweli|
Q4U: Have you read any Bradbury, and if so, what's your favorite?
"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories."
"You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes."