I thought this letter was a wonderful example not only of a love of words but of good writing and inspiration.
Ray Bradbury's words live on
1:49 AM, Jun 10, 2012
Barry Bernson Written by
Zoom Writer Ray Bradbury 'was a master stylist.' / 1997 AP PHOTO More
I first encountered Ray Bradbury in 1955, in a 1949 anthology of science-fiction stories I stole from my older brother. It was a zombie story called “Pillar of Fire,” about a man coming back to life in the distant future. I still remember the opening lines:
“He came out of the earth, hating. Hate was his father; hate was his mother.”
I was about 10 years old, and I was hooked. Bradbury was the first author I’d found whose words truly enthralled me. I sought out more stories: “The Earth Men” (which later grew into Bradbury’s novel “The Martian Chronicles”) about astronauts whose claim they’d just landed from Earth led the residents of Mars to clap them into an insane asylum.
Bradbury, who died last week at 91, was a master stylist. In a way, he took science fiction out of its confining box by writing stories that spoke to larger themes and a wider readership. “I hate a Roman named Status Quo!” one of his characters says, near the end of his best-known novel, “Fahrenheit 451.” Could one find a better clarion call to the anti-establishment, anti-war, civil rights protesters of the 1960s?
There was an element of poetry to so much of Bradbury. This is from “Dandelion Wine”:
“It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.”
For an aspiring young writer, finding Bradbury was a revelation. I simply could not get enough. The possibilities suddenly were endless — the ways of thinking about the natural world, or imagining the future, or celebrating the past, as he does so brilliantly in re-creating the 1920s of his boyhood home town, Waukegan, Ill., as “Green Town.”
Ray Bradbury, like the bards of the Middle Ages, chose well-joined words and wove them into sagas of fancy and satire, terror and compassion. Over decades, his unbounded imagination, wisdom and artistry inspired generations of readers like me.
I shall miss him, but, ah!, his words yet live. Ray Bradbury’s epitaph might be in his own words in “Fahrenheit 451”:
“Everyone must leave something in the room or left behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”
You’re there, Mr. Bradbury.
New Albany, Ind. 47150
The writer is a longtime storyteller in the Louisville area, whose four decades in television earned him six regional Emmy awards. — Editor.