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Reading List

Ray Bradbury on a Bicycle
Bradbury (in 1975) didn't drive a car. But he was often out and about in L.A., browsing bookstores' stacks, his bicycle propped just outside.

Ray Bradbury in 1923 in Green Town, Ill. ““When I was born in 1920,”” he said in 2000, ““the auto was only 20 years old. Radio didn’’t exist. TV didn’’t exist. I was born at just the right time to write about all of these things.”” [LA Times]

My earliest memories of Ray Bradbury are also my earliest memories of reading on my own and to this day, his stories are my favorite works of fiction. In the Great Books program at Peabody Elementary school in Littleton, CO we read The Trolley, All Summer In A Day, The Veldt and The Time Machine. Reading Bradbury stories is being lead down a rabbit hole that surprises you with hiw bizare and familiar everything in the deep of space (No Particular Night or Morning), on Venus (All Summer In A Day) and your own back yard (The Time Machine) can be.

“It’s telling that we read Bradbury for his short stories,” said Benford. “They are glimpses. The most important thing about writers is how they exist in our memories. Having read Bradbury is like having seen a striking glimpse out of a car window and then being whisked away.” [Gregory Benford]

Ray Bradbury died Tuesday night at the age of 91. It’s ironic how hard it is for Bradbury fans to justify feeling sad that he’s gone. Many of his stories salute the dark and grisly nature of life (The Pillar of Fire) and the temporary nature of beauty (A Season Of Calm Weather) and the ability of man to meet eternity with joy (Dandelion Wine chapter 24) so we know that he must have been a man who approached and met death with a sense of wonder as wide as his smile. And with 27 books and 600 short stories, we really couldn’t have asked much more of him. Still, gone he is. And sad we are.

I had the opportunity to meet Ray Bradbury in 1998 in Albuquerque New Mexico at a book signing. He was a big, loud, funny man who liked to tell stories. There was an amazing number of people there to see him and have him sign a book. He only had time to sign one per person. He signed one for me, and I said to him, “Mr. Bradbury my name is Mike and I want to thank you very much for your stories.” He smiled, looked me in the eye, said, “your welcome,” shook my hand and that was that.

Last year I posted about Ray Bradbury and my favorite stories along with a video interview with Mr. Bradbury on my blog. For the last 20 years or so I’ve had a bradbury book in my nightstand and would pull it out and read a story or two fairly regularly. Before my son was born we were doing some remodeling that we never finished and my books have been packed in a box. This motivates me to dig them out and get started again.

Dandelion Wine

Bradbury’s novel Dandelin Wine is by far my favorite book. I’ve read it at least twice. It’s a wonderful story about being a boy in a changing world. If I had read it when I was a boy I might have been impresses, but I read it in college and was blown away. It isn’t science fiction, It’s just fiction. I don’t think they’ve ever made a TV show or movie about it, but if they did, it would be a perfect project for Wes Anderson.

Ray Bradbury ( Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / June 6, 2012 )
Ray Bradbury ( Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / June 6, 2012 )

Dandelion Wine is a roughly autobiographical work by Bradbury about growing up in a small town and just being a boy in the world. Fot boys, and men like me it’s either the childhood we had and look back on with fondness or the childhood we wish we had and live vicariously though the novel. Or a little of both. It’s honest, simple, beautiful and brilliant.

The Time Machine is a chapter in Dandelion Wine that is not about time machines. Douglas takes his friend to see Colonel Freeleigh, an old man who tells stories and thus takes them to different places and times. Later in the book they go back to visit him and help him place a call to his friend in Mexico City who holds the reveiver out the window so the Colonel can hear the sounds and remember good times. The Colonel’s nurse hangs up the phone chiding him for getting excited, and risking his health. The boys leave and come back later to find that the Colonel has placed one last call to Mexico. Douglas takes the receiver from the Colonel’s lifeless hand, listens and hears a window close a thousand miles away.

I imagine that this is how Mr. Bradbury went out. Science Fiction evolved from Bradbury’s lead to imagine technology that became intelligent, and our intelligence downloaded and became technology. But one thing I get from Bradbury is a sense that the universe has a consciousness that can’t be seen with technology, but perhaps technology can still help us get there.

Perhaps, to live forever, Ray and The Colonel downloaded their consciousness through the telephone lines to a place where memory and history and imagination all are the same. Through his stories and books, Ray Bradbury created such a place. A place where memories of transitory beauty are infinite and our fears, wishes, dreams and desires are all looked forward to with excitement and joy.

-Mike

Source: LA Times

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