Friday, June 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury 1920 - 2012

Ray Bradbury died this week. Bradbury had such an early and profound impact upon my literary tastes as well as upon my thinking. From about sixth grade on I devoured science fiction books. One of the first works that read was The Martian Chronicles.   In the ensuing years I moved on to The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes as well as additional short stories. Bradbury was one of the first really great writers that I encountered.

While not very aware of theme and characters in those years. I did sense that Bradbury was three or four cuts above the average science fiction writer. His prose was always very poetic and he sometimes wrote whimsical passages in the midst of stories that were otherwise hard science fiction. His tales were cautionary and often pointed to human folly especially when tied to the misuse of technology. He also expressed a strong distrust regarding popular or “mass” thinking that really struck a cord with me.

I still remember when ninth grade English class teacher assigned Fahrenheit 451 how happy and surprised I was as I had already read it! Though this may be his most famous work, his other books may actually be stronger.

Though I have only reread Fahrenheit 451 in my “aware” adulthood, I do seem to remember the other works somewhat vivid detail. In retrospect they really made an impression upon me. It is high time that I revisit these books.

I found this quote from Something Wicked This Way Comes:

"Death doesn't exist. It never did, it never will. But we've drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it, we've got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing.”


Cat Troiano said...

I reread 'Fahrenheit 451' just a few years ago and was struck by the similarities of our society today to the fictional world he described all those years ago. Some of those similarities are frightening actually.

Brian Joseph said...

Totally scary when you see so people zoned out with headphones in their ears. Bradbury predicted that on the money back in the 1950s!

Violet said...

I must admit to have avoided reading science fiction, because it just never interested me. However, as I get older and the world keeps turning, I see that many of the ideas and things science fiction authors wrote about are coming to pass. That is kind of scary! I like Bradbury's quote about death. It seems about right to me. We do tend to think of death as an entity, when really it is Nothing.

Caroline said...

I must have gone through a Ray Bradbury phase at the smae age you did. I read a lot of him and really loved it. He is, unlike some other sci-fi writers, also a stylist, some one who writes really well. One I haven't read is Something Wicked This Way Comes. I always meant to. maybe this autumn (not sure why but it sounds like it would fit autumn).

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Violet - As for things that Bradbury predicted coming true, Fahrenheit 451 was frighteningly prophetic. Masses of people constantly connected to electronics that poured meaningless popular garbage into their minds, the decline of reading, the glorification of anti intellectualism. What to me was most interesting was that this dystopia did not come about through an evil and oppressive government taking over. It came from the bottom up The masses, addicted to mindless and vacuous entertainment and distractions demanded the end to books and real thinking and subsequently censored and persecuted those who created and advocated for substance.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Caroline - I really want to reread "Something Wicked This Way Comes" soon too. If I recall it did take place in late summer or autumn and really had the "feel' of the season. I remember it having great mood and atmosphere but it was so long ago that I first read it!

Violet said...

That does sound frighteningly prophetic! I really have to read the book now.

Brian Joseph said...

Yes, everyone I know who has read Fahrenheit 451 is amazed at how much has come to be. One criticism of the book I have however is that in some ways it is very derivative of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty - Four.

Anonymous said...

I read Fahrenheit 451 two years ago (there's a post on my blog) and I thought it was brilliant.

I'm not a great SF reader, I can't get into these books, I don't know why.


Brian Joseph said...

Hi Emma - I checked out your post on the book. Good points! Luckily, as much as some of Bradbury's dark vision has come through much of it has not. In fact, in some ways, for those who use the internet and telecommunications a certain way, I think that we have a greater opportunity to content in a meaningful way and access content that is substantive and artistic.

Since you did not add it, the link to your post is below for those who want to take a look:

Maria Behar said...

Hi, Brian! Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting on two of my posts! I really appreciate it! I'll come by and comment on another of yours tomorrow, since it's a bit late, and I'm heading to bed.

Bradbury is one of my favorite writers! He wrote beautiful, poetic prose, as you've pointed out in your article. His imaginations was truly astounding! I will have to go back and re-read some of his books, as well as read some new ones.

Thanks for the tribute! : )

BTW, I'm not sure I'm following your blog. If not, I'll do that right away! : )

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Maria - Thanks for commenting. I have been rereading a few science fiction books that I originally read in my younger days. Though many others in the genre wrote great works, it may be that when it comes to actual writing style, Bradbury may be the best that I know.