June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury (1938–2012)

I just read Ray Bradbury’s piece in the latest New Yorker the other day, and today he’s gone. I have a few fond memories of Bradbury stories from childhood. I’ve got a picture in my head of the cover of a collection, though I can’t find a picture of it at the moment. Probably the same year I read an awful lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs. And of course The Veldt. 


  1. Rick Neece on June 6th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    My senior year in high-school I had to take a fourth year of English (in Illinois, I only had to take three-years of English) We read Romeo & Juliet (I’d read it in 9th grade in Illinois). My teacher had quite the collection of paperbacks in the back of the room. I read everything he had by Bradbury back there. Got me through the year.

    I remember particularly, “The Illustrated Man.” Wasn’t “The Veldt” among those stories?

  2. Rick Neece on June 6th, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    I haven’t seen Bradbury’s piece in TNY yet, but I’ve been relishing Sam Lipsyte’s story, “The Republic of Empathy.”

  3. Sheila Ryan on June 6th, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Gotta love much of Bradbury’s early TV work, too, especially for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.

    “Have you noticed that more people are vanishing nowadays than ever before?” (Special Delivery, 1959.)

    The Great Bayou Novelty Greenhouse.

  4. Sheila Ryan on June 6th, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    “Mushrooms, however big, can’t think or feel. Why, they haven’t got arms or legs. How could they run a mail order business . . . and take over the world?”

    That’s what they said about sea monkeys, too.

  5. Daryl Scroggins on June 6th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    When I was nine years old, Bradbury made me know that I wanted to be a writer. I already loved books at the time, but his words first made me love language. I read The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Dandelion Wine first, and then many other books of stories. In some of my workshops today, I still present recordings of him reading his stories–works such as “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” and “The Silent Towns.” I’m very sorry to see him go, and I’m grateful for all he did for me by way of his wonderful work.

  6. SC on June 6th, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    …Bradbury made me know that I wanted to be a writer…

    I had that same problem. I’m pretty sure I started reading him in 3rd grade. I read right through what I could find in the elementary school library and when I figured out there was more, I insisted on a town library card. When the town library ran out of Bradbury, I coaxed my mom into letting me ride my bike to the local college library. I couldn’t check out books so I spent most of a summer digging through indexes and old magazines and read every last scrap. I remember saving money my first year in college to buy Death is a Lonely Business.
    I wrote school reports on him in 4th, 5th, and 9th grade and the first dozen stories I wrote were basically lame kid versions of Bradbury tales.

    And then I never read him again. As an adult, I watched Moby Dick twice because Bradbury wrote the script and went to see Something Wicked This Way Comes but that’s it. Other writers I was obsessed with as a kid, I continue to read but not Bradbury. I guess I should dig out Dandelion Wine and try him again.

  7. Daryl Scroggins on June 7th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Our experience is very similar, SC. When I read him now his style hits me as a little cloying, a little too breathlessly enthusiastic and conventional in its sentiments. But as a child I was amazed by the tone and flash of it all. He made me see how much work a well-made simile or metaphor can do. Have you ever read his poetry? Wow–not a genre he should have pursued, in my view. But who says a person has to do everything well before being called great.

  8. growler on June 7th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    “Why love the boy in a March field with his kite braving the sky? Because our fingers burn with the hot string singeing our hands. Why love some girl viewed from a train bent to a country well? The tongue remembers iron water cool on some long lost noon. Why weep at strangers dead by the road? They resemble friends unseen in forty years. Why laugh when clowns are hit by pies? We taste custard – we taste life. Why love the woman who is your wife? Her nose breathes the air of a world that I know; therefore I love that nose. Her ears hear music I might sing half the night through; therefore I love her ears. Her eyes delight in seasons of the land; and so I love those eyes. Her tongue knows quince, peach, chokeberry, mint and lime; I love to hear it speaking. Because her flesh knows heat, cold, affliction, I know fire, snow, and pain. Shared and once again shared experience. Billions of prickling textures. Cut one sense away, cut part of life away. Cut two senses; life halves itself on the instant. We love what we know, we love what we are. Common cause, common cause, common cause of mouth, eye, ear, tongue, hand, nose, flesh, heart, and soul.” ― Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

  9. growler on June 7th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    SC, same pretty much for me. I hadn’t read him since high school maybe. Last night I picked up Dandelion Wine and blazed through it. God, it is magical, especially the first chapter, which sets up a telling of the summer of 1928 in Green Town (really Waukegan, Bradbury’s home town). A series of short chapters that tell a greater story. Lyrical and poignant. At once the story of youth and age nearing death. The all-too fleeting. “Clean, smokeless, efficient, that’s dandelion wine.” Mr. Jonas was magical. and the last chapter was devastatingly beautiful.

    Started Something Wicked This Way Comes this morning. It’s every bit as creepy and wonderful as I remembered. There’s some dark powers at work in that book. Also, lyrical looks at age and youth and friendship and conflict, which get to the heart of just what it is to be a 13-year-old boy (or girl):

    “So there they go, Jim running slower to stay with Will, Will running faster to stay with Jim, Jim breaking two windows in a haunted house because Will’s along, Will breaking one window instead of none because Jim’s watching. God, how we get our fingers in each other’s clay. That’s friendship, each playing the potter to see what shapes we can make of the other.”

  10. SC on June 7th, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    I’ve been trying to think of any lasting influence Bradbury had on my life. I kinda know how to use indexes to find magazine articles in the library but I suspect I might have picked up that skill regardless of Bradbury. I’d say it’s not owning a car. I was in awe of Bradbury living carless. I guess I might not have considered living carless as a adult if I hadn’t be so fascinated by the idea as a kid. I hated being trapped in the family car and for a while I thought “Hey, if I write stories just like Ray Bradbury and become famous I can announce that I’m not going to ride in the car anymore and my family will let me walk everywhere.” So, I credit Bradbury for planting the idea in my head of living without a car. (Though more and more I wish I still owned a truck, probably fallout from reading too much Harry Crews or recently watching Smokey and the Bandit.)

  11. Christopher Walken on June 9th, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    I liked the bit from Bradbury’s NYer piece that Atwood quotes in her Guardian eulogy:

    …Any writer who delves as deeply into “horror” writing as Bradbury did has a complex relationship with mortality, and it’s not surprising to learn that Ray Bradbury as a child was worried that he would die at any moment, as he tells us in “Take Me Home”, a sidebar in this June’s New Yorker Science Fiction issue. “When I look back now,” he says – in what, ironically, was going to be his last published piece – “I realise what a trial I must have been to my friends and relatives. It was one frenzy after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another. I was always yelling and running somewhere, because I was afraid life was going to be over that very afternoon.”…


  12. Ray Bradbury on July 1st, 2012 at 12:23 am

    1920 actually, not that it matters now…