One More For the Road…
Ray Bradbury died last night, and I feel like I’ve lost a childhood friend. J.R.R. Tolkien aside, no writer has influenced, inspired, and intimidated me more. In his work and in what I know of his life, Bradbury was something bigger, something more, than a normal person. His imagination was like a great circus tent within him, and he was the ringleader, showing us all the weird and wonderful inhabitants that dwelt inside.
The first story I remember reading was “Usher II” from The Martian Chronicles (though I didn’t know the book at the time). Not only did it give me the heebee-jeebees, but it lead me to Edgar Allan Poe. Like Poe, Bradbury delighted in the spooky and often wrote stories which create a thrill of fear without being graphic or profane. While he loved the creepiness inherent in carnivals and haunted houses, Bradbury also adored language and treated it as something deserving of respect. I have a feeling he would have viewed Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series with the worst sort of disdain (if he ever bothered to read it, which I find highly unlikely).
Dandelion Wine changed the way I looked at ordinary life. The Illustrated Man taught me that short stories don’t have to stand alone. And Fahrenheit 451? Well, I think that book just changed the world, for those who bothered to listen, anyway. In the days and weeks ahead, better writers than me will sing Bradbury’s praise. They’ll talk about what he meant to them personally and about the grandeur of his legacy. More likely than not, everything they say will be true. It will also be less than he deserves.
Bradbury was part prophet and part magician, with a constant air of the court jester about him. Nothing I say will make up for his passing or do him justice. Instead, I hope you find your way to one of his stories and read it in a quiet spot. Sit in the sun or the shade, as the tale requires. It’s there, in the millions and millions of words he has left us, that you will find his life and all that made him great.
Farewell, Ray. I’ll miss you, old friend.
“My gosh, if you’re going away, we got a million things to talk about! All the things we would’ve talked about next month, the month after! Praying mantises, zeppelins, acrobats, sword swallowers!”
–from Dandelion Wine