I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.Ray Bradbury
Today I was saddened to hear the news of Ray Bradbury’s death. He lived to the ripe old age of 91 and – if I’m being honest – I was a little surprised to hear of his passing… half-assuming he’d ascended to that Great Library in The Sky many years ago.
Bradbury was one of writers who lit up my childhood and brought colour and wonder to grey 1970s Dublin. His novel, The Martian Chronicles is probably the first serious science-fiction book I can recall reading. I don’t wish to denigrate the fantastical space adventures penned by W.E. Johns, which were my initial introduction to science fiction, but they were essentially Boys Own Adventures that just happened to be set in space; whereas Bradbury was doing something entirely different. I’m sure even Johns would agree.
Ray Bradbury’s prose was genuinely poetic. It was filled with wisdom, warmth and a rich humour. It was also deadly serious and – looking back – was probably the first “social commentary” I read too. Though of course, at the tender age of 9 or 10, much of the allegory went above my head. Even so, I can distinctly remember thinking that there was something important about Bradbury’s work… something I wasn’t quite grasping, but that I desperately wanted to. Later in my teens when I re-read The Martian Chronicles – along with scores (if not hundreds) of his short stories – I was pleased to have been vindicated. There was something important about Bradbury’s work. And there still is.
Something Wicked This Way Comes remains one of my all-time favourite novels. I’ve not read it in many years, but I intend to very soon. It’s a shame that my revisit to his books is being prompted by such sad news, but I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Mr. Bradbury; a man whose love of writing consumed him.
Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.Ray Bradbury
When someone has spent more than ninety years on the planet, it’s difficult to describe their death as “a tragedy”. For surely few of us can expect to have such a span of years, and those of us who do should feel blessed because of it. And yet, when such a wise voice as Ray Bradbury is silenced, the world is always the worse for it. Still, he left us plenty of that wisdom in the books he wrote. Wisdom, wit and some cracking good yarns. For those of you who never encountered his work, may I suggest a short list to track down and be amazed by. And for those who are already familiar with Bradbury… well, there’s no harm in a re-read. It’s what he would have wanted.
My favourite of his novels:
As wonderful as are his novels, the curious reader should – perhaps even more urgently – track down pretty much any one of his glorious collections of short stories… The Day It Rained Forever and I Sing the Body Electric are two of the best, but you really can’t go wrong with Bradbury short stories. And if you don’t believe me, then why not track down some of the ones that have made it onto the web (The Pedestrian for example). You won’t be sorry that you did.