Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bradbury Speaks: Too soon from the cave, too far from the stars

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): He is an American treasure, a clear-eyed fantasist without peer, and a literary icon who has created wonder for the better part of seven decades. On subjects as diverse as fiction, the future, film, famous personalities, and more, Ray Bradbury has much to say, as only he can say it.

Collected between these covers are memories, ruminations, opinions, prophecies, and philosophies from one of the most influential and admired writers of our time. As unique, unabashed, and irrepressible as the artist himself, here is an intimate portrait, painted with the master's own words, of the one and only Ray Bradbury—far more revealing than any mere memoir, for it opens windows not only into his life and work but also into his mind and heart.

And here's what I thought:  Like many readers, I've been inspired to pick up and read (or re-read) some Ray Bradbury lately.  This book contains a bunch of essays, written at various times, and on a variety of subjects.  I found I liked a few of them very much -- and I learned some new things.  Like -- I had no idea that Something Wicked This Way Comes started out as a short tale called "The Black Ferris," and then into a screenplay that Bradbury wrote for Gene Kelly (?!?) and then was re-worked by Bradbury into the novel.   That book is one of my all-time favorite stories (not just by Bradbury, but overall all-time favorites), and I've seen the movie several times .... and I would have never imaged in a million years that there would be a connection to Gene Kelly.

This was just one of the essays that I enjoyed.  Some of what Bradbury wrote about is pretty interesting, and some of it is really thought-provoking.  There's a lovely essay from 2004 called "Remembrance of Books Past," where Bradbury talks about a conversation he had with Bernard Berenson about the Wilderness People from Fahrenheit 451, and how interesting it would be if all the great books remembered by those people could be reprinted from memory --- and how those stories would change.    Bradbury writes, "What if you could pick your favorite?  Kipling, Dickens, Wilde, Shaw, Poe.  These, memorized and reborn thirty years from today, how would they, unwillingly, change?"  (p 29) It's fascinating to ponder how the stories could change, depending on how someone remembered them.

Bradbury also wrote essays about technology, and how it has changed how people relate to each other.  In the undated essay titled "I'm Mad as Hell," he discussed how, even though he embraces the future, that he doesn't like how reliant people have become on the Internet, and email, and television.  It's clear that when he wrote this, he was making a point about how technology is good, but that people really lose something when they tune in to technology, and ignore the real world around them.

If you're only familiar with Bradbury's works of fiction, I'd encourage you to seek out this book.  If nothing else, you get some insight into Ray Bradbury, and some of what influenced his fiction.  And if you think you know the man, you might discover something new here (for example, I had no idea of the friendship he had with Walt Disney).   Very cool.  

Some of my favorite writing from this book:  From the essay "I'm as Mad as Hell" --
Internet research?  No!  Step into a real library, swim in the aquarium of time, touch the books, open the books, smell the books, dog-ear the damned wondrous things with your canines.  Wander the shadowed stacks, meet the Wizard and John Carter and Blind Pew coming the other way.  Climb the stacks like an ape.  Meet Verne on his way to the Moon, the first Sherpa on Everest, or Nemo.  What's he doing up here at the bottom of the sea?  Lug ten books home, with their scent of baking break and their bright eyes and lively tongues.  Then dash back to the bakery.  The library, the library, the library.

Let's face it, there was only one place where my novel Fahrenheit 451could have been written: the basement typing room of the UCLA library, where, dashing up and downstairs with a bagful of dimes to feed the typewriter clot machines, I wallowed in the dim tides between stacks, sniffing in Tolstoy, breathing out Melville, then back downstairs to bang the Underwood.

Get a life!

Call your cat to help you kill that laptop mouse.


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