Thursday, 13 May 2010

Ray Bradbury

Here's a good article about Ray Bradbury on Slate that was linked on Arts & Letters Daily. When I was a kid, I read everything by Bradbury I could get my hands on. I first read The Illustrated Man when I was about twelve or so, and probably read it two or three times more over the course of my teens.I can remember very clearly both the copy of The Illustrated Man I used to own - it had an oddly textured cover, part of a series in fact that included Golden Apples of the Sun and The Dragon Riders of Pern.

I read it again last year
(not that copy, of course) in the course of my degree, and it stood up to my childhood recollections admirably. There's not a single dud, and even if his subject matter and approach seemed rather old fashioned today there are a handful of timeless gems like "The Rocket", "Kaliedoscope", "The Veldt" and the "The Long Rain". The last two were part of the movie version with Rod Steiger, which used to turn up on TV from time to time, late at night during school holidays. I remember thinking it was a bit stodgy at the time, but maybe it would be more appealing to me now I'm older.

I bought my copy of The Martian Chronicles as part of a three-for-a-fiver deal at Whitcoulls one August holiday along with Timesnake and Super Clown by Vincent King (great title , but I never read it, I don't think) and Fratricide Is A Gas by Lindsay Gutteridge (I eventually read all three of this trilogy about a guy who gets shrunk down to the size of an ant has to fight his way across the garden to safety, all of them purchased as remainders, if I'm not mistaken).

Mum and Anna and I took the bus to Auckland, where we spent the night in a hotel and visited the tourist hotspots. I read The Martian Chronicles in one go on the way up and then again on the way back. The girl a couple of seats back from me was sick and I remember the smell of puke and the pungent floral perfume of disinfectant to this day.

I like how the article describes his stories: "Bradbury is an optimist at heart, but his head knows that hope may not be enough. ... You read Bradbury with a growing sense of wonder and joy. It's only on reflection, after the stories take up residence in your head and crawl deep into the dark cracks and corners, that the wonder mutates into something closer to dread."

Yeah, that's what he feels like, and some of his stories stick with me still.

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