Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thank God for Ray Bradbury

One afternoon years ago Carol and I were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking when the phone rang. I got up and answered it and said, "Oh, yes, hi, Ray." And Carol started grinning and pointing and saying sotto voce "Is it Ray Bradbury?" When I nodded yes she became demonically possessed, up out of her chair and walking around in little circles. (I mean writers called all the time for Mystery Scene and I'd never seen her act this way.) I'd been working on an anthology that Ray was in. This was the second time he'd called. I'd already gone through my own fan boy vapors the first time through. Carol taught three of Ray's stories in her seventh grade English class and felt that reading him so carefully really helped her own writing. Plus he was RAY BRADBURY! I couldn't help it. I said to Ray "There's a grown woman here who's making a total fool of herself over you." He laughed and said he was glad to hear that. Of all my memories of Carol that's one of the sweetest.

Now here's an excerpt from a NY Times piece about how Ray is still the same wonderful guy he's always been:

VENTURA, Calif. — When you are pushing 90, have written scores of famous novels, short stories and screenplays, and have fulfilled the goal of taking a simulated ride to Mars, what’s left?


This is a lucky thing for the Ventura County Public Libraries — because among Mr. Bradbury’s passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. His most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” which concerns book burning, was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of the University of California, Los Angeles, library; his novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” contains a seminal library scene.

Mr. Bradbury frequently speaks at libraries across the state, and on Saturday he will make his way here for a benefit for the H. P. Wright Library, which like many others in the state’s public system is in danger of shutting its doors because of budget cuts.

“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Property tax dollars, which provide most of the financing for libraries in Ventura County, have fallen precipitously, putting the library system roughly $650,000 in the hole. Almost half of that amount is attributed to the H. P. Wright Library, which serves roughly two-thirds of this coastal city about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.


Brendan DuBois said...

What a great piece in the NYT... and I'm envious that you got to talk to him. How cool is that!

I remember a while ago reading that Ray went ballistic when he found out that over the years, Fahrenheit 451 had been edited and polished by a series of editors to make it more PC...

A dear treasure, that's for sure.

RJR said...

About 15 years ago Marthayh and I were at ABA and she got a chance to meet Ray Bradbury, the second biggest influence on her writing, after Rod Serling. As she was introduced, unsure of what to say, she simply dropped her head and said, "Thank you for my life!"