Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The literary father of so many of us - Ray Bradbury dead at 91

'Fahrenheit 451' Author Ray Bradbury Dies At 91

Ray Bradbury's career spanned more than 70 years — during which he transported readers to other dimensions with his futuristic and innovative stories. He died Tuesday at age 91.
EnlargeLennox McLendon/AP

Ray Bradbury's career spanned more than 70 years — during which he transported readers to other dimensions with his futuristic and innovative stories. He died Tuesday at age 91.

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June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chroniclesand Fahrenheit 451, died Tuesday. He was 91. Bradbury was known for his futuristic tales — but he never used a computer, or even drove a car.

Bradbury grew up during the Great Depression. He said it was a time when people couldn't imagine the future, and his active imagination made him stand out. He once told Fresh Air's Terry Gross about exaggerating basic childhood fears, like monsters at the top of the stairs.

"As soon as I looked up, there it was, and it was horrible," Bradbury remembers. "And I would scream and fall back down the stairs, and my mother and father would get up and sigh and say, 'Oh, my gosh, here we go again.' "

Hear Ray Bradbury On 'Fresh Air'

Bradbury dove into books as a child. Wild tales from authors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells captivated Bradbury — and made him dream of becoming a great author. So he started writing, churning out a short story every week during his teens. After his family moved to Southern California, he would escape to the basement of the UCLA library. There, he'd focus on his craft.

"For 10 cents a half-hour you could rent a typewriter," Bradbury recalled. "And I thought, my gosh, this is terrific! I can be here for a couple hours a day. It'll cost me 30, 40 cents, and I can get my work done."

Bradbury made his mark in the literary world with The Martian Chronicles, a collection of short stories released in 1950. During the height of the Red Scare, he set off a warning flare about censorship with his signature work, Fahrenheit 451 — and he did so in a controversial new magazine: Playboy. The story was later printed as a novel, and in 1966 director Francois Truffaut introduced movie audiences to this bizarre society Bradbury created: one in which firemen burned books to keep the masses completely ignorant but couldn't extinguish their curiosity.

"Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and starts to burn," explains firefighter Guy Montag.

Oscar-nominated director Frank Darabont wants to bring a new version of Fahrenheit 451 to the big screen. He was inspired by the outlaws in the book — the people who worked desperately to preserve literature and pass wisdom along to future generations. Darabont wants to do just that — deliver this author's lessons to today's youth.

"Bradbury takes us into a journey to the core of the human heart and glories in the potential of humankind," Darabont says. "That's a great message to get at a time in your life when you're looking around and seeing that the world kind of sucks."

Bradbury saw his work more as social commentary than science fiction. And he found new ways to express his take on the world. He adapted a screenplay of Melville's Moby Dick and worked on TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

Ray Bradbury is one who is contributing to the understanding of the imagination and the curiosity of the human race.

But there was one medium Bradbury never embraced: computers. He once told The New York Times that the Internet was meaningless. And it wasn't until 2011 that Bradbury reluctantly gave in to his publisher's demands to release Farenheit 451 as an e-book.

Bradbury may have resisted modern technology, but he influenced plenty of innovation. The crew of Apollo 15 was so inspired by Bradbury's novel Dandelion Wine,they named a lunar crater after the book. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin said Bradbury's impact was universal.

"Ray Bradbury is one who is contributing to the understanding of the imagination and the curiosity of the human race," Aldrin said.

Bradbury suffered a stroke at age 80 and could no longer write — but he continued to dream. He was so certain mankind would land on Mars, he asked to be buried there. That may never happen, but it didn't stop him from believing it was possible.


RJR said...

Comedians and writers live long lives. I think it's the constant mental gymnastics. Wow! 91. I met him briefly about 18 years ago. A gentleman.


Anonymous said...

Back in the 1970s, I met him, well, watched him hold court at the Santa Barbara Writers Workshop.

During the daytime the honorees held court and we were their audiences.

We the attendees had pirate workshops every night. Small groups that would meet and go over the stories writing by us, the nameless, the faceless.

Some nights the Big Names came and sat in, offered advice and solace.

One night Ray Bradbury sat in with us. We were all amazed & astonished.

Someone asked him if he was good at tennis.

“I don’t play tennis.”

But we always see you in tennis whites. Day or night.

“I photograph better in tennis whites.”

Then a timid young woman read (with much nervousness) her story about her husband and her vacation to Greece. How they went hiking, saw a small cottage with plastic chairs and a table under a Cinzano umbrella.

So, exhausted, they went and sat down.

The owners, a man and a woman, came out. What with the language barrier, after much consternation and back and fro, the owners brought out a carafe of wine and some bread and rolls.

The Americans had a fine rest and refreshment.

And then they discovered that this was not a restaurant, but a private residence.

That’s when Ray Bradbury took over. He interrupted the story before its ending and began loudly re-imagining it.

“This is how you can enhance and enrich it,” he said.

The Greek Gods, Zeus and Athena, Apollo and Hermes, came and sat down in this private home and had wine and refreshments. While the home’s owners watched them argue and gossip from behind curtains …

It was a great ad-lib. A great Bradbury story with grand images and great flourishes.

The timid young woman kept shrinking into her seat, lowering her head, chewing her lower lip, hiding herself … crushed just like her story.

Bradbury hijacked her work in front of everyone.

No one could match Bradbury’s imagination.

I didn’t like the guy.

~ said...

RIP to a great American author. That rare writer whose work can be enjoyed by adults and young adults, without insulting the intelligence of either group. If there's a silver lining, maybe this will mark a resurgence of interest in his books. "The October Country" is one of the best collections of horror stories ever written. And his most famous work, "Fahrenheit 51", is a landmark novel and a hell of a good read. It is deservingly renowned for its convincing portrayal of a totalitarian state that controls through censorship and propaganda. But the book is also remarkably prescient in its depiction of numbing new technologies that seem to anticipate electronic surveillance, interactive "virtual" communications, and even reality TV. Sadly, it also foresees the decline of the bound word; it is best read in "hard copy" form!