Ray Bradbury died June 5. I know everyone already knows that, unless you didn’t, and now you do.
I can’t remember when I first read Bradbury. I know it had something to do with my brother, who had a vast collection of sci fi and fantasy books. When I wanted something new to read, I’d go to my brother’s library. He had a “lawyer’s bookcase” with glass-covered shelves (which are great because they collect less dust) and would make me book recommendations. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have kept to my Sweet Valley High collection. Also, my high school classes did not require much reading. I read NO literature in high school that I recall. My 10th grade class had a textbook we used in 6th grade (I am not joking) which were “excerpts” and “short stories.” Which leads me to ask: what the hell did we read junior year in our “Advanced American Literature” class? The only things I remember doing in that class are 1. an oral report about dollhouse miniatures 2. writing a “symbolic” short story and 3. watching THE PAPER CHASE. (It’s worth noting, perhaps, that junior year was the year I received the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Writing).
As usual, I digress. I’m sure my Bradbury experience began with Fahrenheit 451, obtained from my brother’s collection when I was around age 12 or 13. I then went to the library and got everything Bradbury had written. My favorite was SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES as well as DANDELION WINE. But I read him as I read all sci-fi authors, which is to say, only for fun. Not because I had to or because someone told me they were big important serious authors (which I often did not enjoy reading).
I went to Scripps College in Claremont, California, and for a time lived off-campus in Upland, a few miles to the east. There was a tiny bookstore there and one day I was walking the streets of their minute-long downtown and saw RAY BRADBURY–SIGNING. Talk about random! So I went in and bought the only books I could afford– a mass market paperback edition of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and another book for a friend and maybe one for my brother, also (again, memory fails, I’ll have to remember to ask). By the way, if you can, always get the hardback if you’re going to get the author signature and it matters to you. Those paperbacks fall the hell apart. Maybe the trade paperbacks last longer, but the mass market paperbacks just disintegrate, and it’s super sad.
I was way way way too shy to tell Mr. Bradbury I wanted to be an author, but I did tell him I went to Scripps, where his daughters had gone, so he said, “Oh, that’s a good school!” or something like that, and signed my books.
Only later, much later, did I re-read his books and realize what a genius he was. He was doing so much in his writing, yet it is still entertaining and fresh. Inspiring.
Bradbury talked about the craft of writing quite a bit. I found this nice compilation of his best writing tips. The one that resonates the most for me is:
“The trouble with a lot of people who try to write is they intellectualize about it. That comes after. The intellect is given to us by God to test things once they’re done, not to worry about things ahead of time.”
Yes and yes! Every time I try to intellectualize, the writing turns out to be crap. You can’t do it.
Also, for all the people who approach me and tell me they don’t have time to write or can’t sit down or do this or that, here you go:
“Don’t talk about it; write.”
So now if you tell me that, I am going to quote Ray Bradbury at you.