Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Ray Bradbury......What Else Can I Say?

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Science fiction author Ray Bradbury, whose imagination yielded classic books such as "Fahrenheit 451," "The Martian Chronicles" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes," has died at 91, his publisher said Wednesday.

Bradbury "died peacefully, last night, in Los Angeles, after a lengthy illness," HarperCollins said in a written statement. (Full Article)

I of course read Ray Bradbury in high school. Unfortunately, my teachers presented some of his short stories in a very backhanded way (let's be honest,  my high school English teachers weren't the greatest), and I'd never read any of his novels until recently.

About six years ago, I fell in love all over again for the first time when, on a whim, I read Something Wicked This Way Comes and then Fahrenheit 451.  I was struck by the absolute beauty and poetry in Something Wicked and of course, F451 spoke to my heart, not only timeless, but eerily prophetic.  

After that, of course, came Dandelion Wine, The October Country, The Halloween Tree, and so many others.  In a way, I felt like Douglas Spaulding in the beginning of Dandelion Wine, coming from this place of ignorance to awareness, coming ALIVE.  Very similar to my reaction in discovering the late Charles L. Grant, I thought to myself: "MY GOD! How did I ever read before this?" 

Because of this, I've been on a quest to infect as many students as I can with Bradbury-fever. I teach Something Wicked, F451, Dandelion Wine every year, and I recently started watching The Bradbury Theater - a collection of his short stories brought to life on the small screen - with my freshman. Admittedly, some don't catch this fever...but some do, and that does my heart glad.

And, ironically enough, I recently made plans - a commitment - to read a Bradbury short story every day this summer, soon as classes are over. My goal - to work through The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Golden Apples of the Sun by the end of the summer.

Just like so many readers and writers, I can't even BEGIN to describe the impact he's made on me.  I can honestly say, the biggest thing I've always loved about him was the idealism in his works, because to me - he's the perfect definition of it.  Many of his stories are sad and creepy and just odd...some downright chilling...but he wrote them all against a tapestry that believed in something BIGGER.  I've never really explored his religious beliefs, but I definitely think it was in something BIGGER.

Then, of course, there's the beauty in his prose.  The FEELING in every single line.  I've always said, and stand by it: if I ever return to college and get my PHD, I'll do my dissertation on Ray Bradbury.  That, and I've also recently tried to put into practice his recommendation for a writer's daily diet: a poem, short story, and an essay every day.  I've just begun this daily diet, and already it seems like my head is bursting at the seams.

Anyway, I've got a post coming up about idealism and horror, so I'll save the rest of what I have to say for then. For now - a great writer has left us.  He's often been described as a modern Samuel Clemens, and I don't think that's far off the mark.  Anyway, I leave you with my favorite little YouTube clip of him, one I use with my students a lot. God Speed, Ray.