Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury: A Legend is Gone

When I saw on the news yesterday that Ray Bradbury had died in California, my first thought was that I'd had no idea he was still alive. This was partly due to the fact that in my mind, all the the truly legendary writers have already passed on. He was 91.

I've read just two of Bradbury's works: Farenheit 451 (of course) and more recently, Zen in the Art of Writing. Farenheit is the kind of science fiction I love - great stories featuring heroic characters who are idealistic to the bone, with strong sociological themes that make them all the more compelling. These stories tend to be chilling: the dystopias they present are all too possible, even probable. Many are projections of conditions and trends that already exist in society. As Bradbury himself has said, "I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it."

When I read Zen in the Art of Writing a few years ago I discovered that many of Bradbury's famous quotations on the craft were lifted from that book. There's a reason these quotations have become common coin: they contain a wealth of wisdom condensed from the author's experience:

"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories." (Hear that, people? Put down the danged iPhone, go outside and look at the stars!)

"I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it."  (Writers, there are no short-cuts. Grease up those elbows and get to work!)

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things." (Hope y'all are listening. Save the thinking for the editing phase.)

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." (Reality is a bitch. I often wonder how many of us would be locked up in jails or psychiatric facilities if we didn't have our creative outlets.)

Ray Bradbury lived his words; we can do worse than to live by them. The literary community has lost a great author, an invaluable contributor to that filigree that stretches back into the dim past from the books, films and songs of today, through the oral traditions to the stories imagined in dark caves. His bibliography - the novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, teleplays, children's literature and non-fiction - is staggering, and the works are as popular today as they were in the 50s. The author lives on through them.

Liane Spicer


Charles Gramlich said...

I've read just about everything by him, and loved it. I had read most of what was in Zen and the Art of Writing already before so it wasn't new to me. A handy compendium, though

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, I've seen screen adaptations of some of his other work but it's not the same as reading the stories. I have a lot of catching up to do.

William Doonan said...

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury. He made me want to become a writer.

Liane Spicer said...

William, what higher tribute can there be to a writer? I can't pinpoint one who had that effect on me, though; there were several. Gerald Durrell comes closest to being 'the one' - and he didn't even write fiction.

William Doonan said...

Liane, I haven't read anything by Gerald, but I'm a big Lawrence Durrell fan. I might have to write about Ray Bradbury for my post.

Liane Spicer said...

William, I haven't read anything by Lawrence D. but I know his work is well regarded in literary circles. According to Gerald, the brothers had no use for each others 'art' - didn't even discuss it because insults were sure to follow.