Ray Bradbury as a kid with George Burns and Marlene Dietrich, from an article he wrote for LIFE Magazine in July 1991:
“I still have my autographs and a few roller skate ball bearings left over from those days so long ago. Almost all of the people I met then are gone, but miraculously Marlene and George have survived. The light that comes out of these pictures is a constant rerun of my life as a somewhat silly but always loving boy, terribly reluctant to enter manhood.”
Of all things, Ray Bradbury chose to advertise prunes. It’s kind of wonderful.
This brief and endearing clip features Ray giving a little advice to the writers and the artists of the world.
“Unless you’re a mad man, you can’t make do in the art field - you’ve got to be inspired and mad and excited - and love it more than anything else in the world.”
This is the opening to the 1985 HBO television series “The Ray Bradbury Theater” based off of his short fiction. It ran for six years, and starred everyone from William Shatner to Peter O’Toole. I’ve seen the first season, and it is wonderfully campy. You can get the entire series for a whopping $10 on Amazon - which, at that price, you have little reason not to buy.
Lastly, there was a short autobiographical essay posted to the New Yorker on June 4th, and it may very well be his final work. The relevance is a bit startling, as it deals with the reminiscence of youth, life, and loss. This is the opening paragraph:
“When I was seven or eight years old, I began to read the science-fiction magazines that were brought by guests into my grandparents’ boarding house, in Waukegan, Illinois. Those were the years when Hugo Gernsback was publishing Amazing Stories, with vivid, appallingly imaginative cover paintings that fed my hungry imagination. Soon after, the creative beast in me grew when Buck Rogers appeared, in 1928, and I think I went a trifle mad that autumn. It’s the only way to describe the intensity with which I devoured the stories. You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.”
It is a short, touching piece, peppered by his unique and beautiful style of writing, and I highly recommend you read it in its entirety here.
My favorite part? He says, “fire balloons” - both in, and out of, the context of his story by the same name. Just that one image alone is so evocative, it nudges me in the direction of another world, somewhere I’ve never seen, but can feel tapping at my shoulder, beckoning me away. That is the power that Bradbury’s writing has always had over me.
I mourn his loss today, but take heart in the fact that I still have many of his books sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read, and many more I have yet to find. The man was wonderfully prolific, producing hundreds of short stories throughout his lifetime, in addition to his novels and work in the television and film industry.
The next time you’re looking for something to read, whether it’s on a long trip, or just to wind down with in the evening (away from the march of technology that Bradbury seemed to be both fascinated by and to abhor), grab a well worn copy of any of his books from your local used bookstore (or perhaps your own shelf). I recommend Dandelion Wine (a summer of magic and grief through the eyes of a child) or Green Shadows, White Whale (his colorful and fictionalized account of time spent in Ireland, writing the screenplay for Moby-Dick). But really, anything of his will do.
It never takes much Bradbury to take you to that different time, that different place.
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