Never Enough Bradbury

Four links for those who love Ray Bradbury.

RAY ON THE RADIO. BBC Radio 4 has started replaying “Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre”, first aired in 1995. Episode 1 is “Night Call Collect”. Bradbury himself voices the introduction.

Marooned accidentally on Mars, telephone engineer Barton waits for the rescue rocket and goes on putting up the phone lines. Then one morning – on his 80th birthday – the phone rings.

IN MEMORY YET GREEN TOWN. Sean Anderson’s film “Green Town: A Tribute to Ray Bradbury” glides through the town of Waukegan, where Ray spent his formative years, and which inspired several of his novels, including Dandelion Wine.

CONTINUING IMPACT. Bradbury is an influence, she says: “Author Alice Hoffman tells World War II story in fairy tale form” at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Q: Many of your female characters from previous books have intuitive and magical powers. Was there someone in your life who influenced that belief or idea in you, and do you see it in yourself?

A: I think that more comes from my reading, especially my reading as a child because I was a big reader of fairy tales, folk tales and mythology. And my grandmother told me my first story. She was Russian, and everything she told me seemed like a fairy tale, so I think it comes more from my reading than from my real life.

Q: I read that Ray Bradbury was a big influence on you, too. Is that correct?

A: He was a huge influence, as he was on so many writers and so many people. He was such a great writer. And it’s going to be his 100th birthday. It’s going to be celebrated. And he was just a big fan of the library, and I just feel like you can read him at any time of your life — but I feel like if you read him when you’re 12 or 13, you can really change your life.

ROCKET MAN. In this 2002 article, Michael Chabon told the Washington Post how a Bradbury story changed his way of looking at the world: “Eminent writers, editors and critics choose some favorite works of fantasy and science fiction.”

The most important short story in my life as a writer is Ray Bradbury’s “The Rocket Man.” I read it for the first time when I was 10. I was making my way, with pleasure, through a collection of Bradbury’s stories called R Is for Rocket. I had been an avid reader for about five years, and at first the pleasure I felt was the familiar pleasure I derived from the flights of an author’s fancy, and from the anticipation and surprise of plot. Then I came to “The Rocket Man.” It’s the narrative of the young son of a rocket pilot whose father is to him at once an ordinary, ordinarily absent father, puttering around the house on his days off, and a terrible, mysterious demigod whose kingdom is the stars. The danger of the father’s profession, the imminence and immanence of death, lie upon the family like the dust of stars that the narrator lovingly collects from his father’s flightsuit every time the Rocket Man comes home. During one of the father’s leaves, the family travels to Mexico by car. One evening they stop along a rural road to rest, and in the last light of the day the son notices bright butterflies, dozens of them, trapped and dying in the grille of the car.

I think it was when I got to the butterflies — in that brief, beautiful image comprising life, death and technology — that the hair on the back of my neck began to stand on end. All at once, the pleasure I took in reading was altered irrevocably. Before then I had never noticed, somehow, that stories were made not of ideas or exciting twists of plot but of language. And not merely of pretty words and neat turns of phrase, but of systems of imagery, strategies of metaphor. “The Rocket Man” unfolds to its melancholy conclusion in a series of haunting images of light and darkness, of machinery and biology interlocked, of splendor and fragility. The sense of foreboding is powerful; the imagery becomes a kind of plot of its own, a shadow plot. The end, when it comes, is at once an awful surprise and as inevitable as any Rocket Man, or those who mourn him, could expect. I have never since looked quite the same way at fathers, butterflies, science fiction, language, short stories or the sun.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for these stories.]

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One thought on “Never Enough Bradbury

  1. Michael Chabon’s account of reading Ray Bradbury’s “Rocket Man” as a kid took me back to my own memories of my first encounters with Bradbury’s short stories as a junior high school kid, indeed the same Bradbury YA collections, “S Is For Space” and “R Is For Rocket”. I don’t have a sharp memory of “The Rocket Man”, but I guessed (and a Wikipedia search says I’m correct, at least by one account) that it inspired Bernie Taupin’s lyric for “Rocket Man”, the song he co-authored with Elton John.

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