Growing up an only child, I had plenty of time to read. I devoured pretty much anything horrific or fantastic, including a lot of stuff that most would consider wildly inappropriate for a seven year-old. Ray Bradbury was among my favorite authors, and probably the one that I learned the most from in terms of how to string together a compelling sentence.
Bradbury could spin a great yarn, but he also possessed a profound insight into what can only be termed the human condition (as cliché as that phrase may be). He bequeathed us with truly amazing stories (too many to list here, but “The Veldt” was always a personal favorite), and he was a fascinating character in his own right. Eminently quotable and altogether irascible, Bradbury was an author’s author, even though he worked in a genre often derided by the literati. His death is a sad day, indeed, but it’s also an opportunity to share some choice Bradbury-isms:
Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.
I’m not afraid of machines. I don’t think the robots are taking over. I think the men who play with toys have taken over. And if we don’t take the toys out of their hands, we’re fools.
I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.
The women in my life have all been librarians, English teachers, or booksellers… I have always longed for education, and pillow talk’s the best.
Don’t talk about it; write.
If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you.
The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance — the idea that anything is possible.
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
There are more. Many more. Then there are the stories — some taught in the classroom, others cherished by diehards who obsess over every word from this curious philosopher. Such devotion is wholly earned. Bradbury explored vistas both strange and mundane, and in the process touched generations with his unique vision and impish wit.
One of my favorite books by Bradbury is not a work of fantastic fiction. Zen in the Art of Writing contains the author’s well-earned wisdom concerning the art of putting word to paper. I read it at least a dozen times before I was in high school, and, although I have difficulty remembering much its advice, I closely adhere to one particular admonition: start with the title. And I do. Whether it’s a blog post, an academic journal, a song, an album, a lecture, a seduction, a eulogy… start with the title. If you can come up with a good one, something that really smacks you upside the head, the rest will follow.
Rest in peace, Ray Bradbury. May your words be always encountered by a deeply flawed, endlessly yearning humankind.