Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. ~Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012
Celebrated writer Ray Bradbury passed away earlier this week at the age of 91. He was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920 and was, in his own words, “in love with writing.” Self-educated and prolific, Bradbury remained a difficult writer to categorize; in addition to the science fiction stories and novels for which he is best known, he also wrote poetry, screenplays, comedy, mystery, and horror, and he approached his vocation with a strict discipline that demanded 1,000 words a day– among his favorite pieces of advice to give aspiring writers was to write a story a day, every day.
Early in his career, he wasn’t published in the same journals as some of the other writers like Heinlein and Asimov whose work also defined science fiction; instead of the burgeoning genre’s alien monsters, robots, and cold, dreadful visions of the future, Bradbury crafted his other worlds in beautifully wrought, poetic prose, and they were strange and delicate and full of wonder.
My introduction to Bradbury happened by accident when I was about fifteen: rather than reading Fahrenheit 451 for class, I stumbled upon Something Wicked This Way Comes while shelving in the Science Fiction stacks at Northland Public Library, where I was a page. I picked it up because I imagined reading it would make me seem edgy– a trait not to be underestimated in the currency of fifteen-year-old girls. By the time I finished reading the library scene, I was hooked (and thoroughly freaked out, since I couldn’t help but picture the scene taking place at the very library where I worked), not just by the plot, but also by the language. Bradbury’s scenes and baroque descriptions made his work that much more enchanting and immersive for me.
Laura, too, has a special place in her heart for the late author, and describes her introduction this way:
“I read Fahrenheit 451 in a fit of classic literature in high school, and liked it well enough. But it was and is Bradbury’s short stories that really got me. I have three anthologies sitting on my dining room table as I write this, and paging through the table of contents I want to climb into these stories again, just like the first time I read them many years ago. My dad gave me my first Bradbury anthology (The Vintage Bradbury, 1990) for my 13th birthday and it was a done deal after that. “The Veldt,” “Tomorrow’s Child,” “I Sing the Body Electric!,” and, oh my god, “The Dwarf” and “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.” He fed my need for the strange, the bizarre, and the wonderful.”
Here, we share a few of the best recent articles and resources if you want to get to know Bradbury’s work, or celebrate his wonderful, creative life. Remember, and enjoy.
Find Ray Bradbury’s works at your local libraries | www.worldcat.org
Take Me Home | A June 4, 2012 New Yorker article by Ray Bradbury about his early fascination with science fiction and how it fueled his writing.
Why Supporting Your Local Library is the Ultimate Homage to Ray Bradbury | An op-ed from GOOD Magazine by Education Editor Liz Dwyer.
Ray Bradbury: A 1990 Interview on Life, Love, and Buck Rogers | From the Guardian archive.
A Literary Legend Fights for a Local Library | A 2009 New York Times interview with Bradbury about his advocacy for the Ventura County Public Libraries.
And finally,we save the best for last: a beautiful 1971 video from Open Culture in which Bradbury reads his poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” at a symposium that included the likes of Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke on the eve of the Mariner 9 orbiter reaching Mars. A fitting way to remember him: