Ray Bradbury and What Ifs

June 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

With the passing of Ray Bradbury, his words that he wanted to “live forever” through his writing have been echoing in my head. I’m not sure there is any other author whose writing has left such indelible scenes on my mind.

Sure, there were characters who I imagined to be my best friends and characters I imagined my self to be. I’ve marveled at the craft of storytelling shown by Daniel Handler and Jonathan Safran Foer and the beautiful words of Kate DiCamillo and Louise Erdrich. The God of Small Things and The Book Thief took my breath away at each paragraph and Connie Willis and Diana Wynne Jones always make laugh. I remember characters and lines and how I feel while reading a story.

But with Bradbury’s work, I remember scenes. And they thrill and delight.

Scenes like the people coming alive as the illustrated man flexed and rippled his skin, or the first sight the boys in Something Wicked This Way Comes have of that time-warping spinning carousel, the children in the African-themed nursery waiting for their parents with a carnivorous appetite, the astronaut alone and forever floating away from his exploded rocket, an entire office of coworkers dreaming the same dream – the ending of the world like a quiet closing of a book.

Years have not dimmed these images. They are made more potent in that each of his stories include some awful horror  – something unnamed and animal within us, desires for youth or control gone toward unnatural ends – or some surprising piece of goodness: the safety of a library, the collective calm of preparing for the end.

I love that his stories have spun off of “what-if” questions. The situations in his sci-fi and speculative fiction will never happen. But they somehow reveal what humanity is like anyway – the good and bad – in our present reality. And I am both repulsed and drawn towards the discovery.

Bradbury writes in his introduction to The Illustrated Man that he refused to die, so “I write, I write, at noon or 3am. So as not to be dead.” I think we read, we read. So as to know who we are.

And we know a little more, thanks to him. A nod to a very gifted writer.


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