Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thoughts on the Passing of Ray Bradbury

I found it interesting that the first of my RSS feeds to provide me with news of the death of Ray Bradbury came from CNET. After all CNET is one of only two feeds I classify as “Science and Technology,” while my current count of “Arts and Letters” feeds is sixteen. Still, I have to give credit to Executive Editor Roger Cheng for a lead sentence that describes Bradbury as a “Science-fiction literature pioneer.”

You don’t encounter the word “literature” often in CNET articles; but Bradbury definitely deserved to be associated with that noun. For all I know, he was the one who inspired (provoked?) a fanzine article I read back in my student days entitled, “But I don’t Want Literature!” Yes, Bradbury wrote about imagined worlds bearing little resemblance to our own, displaced in time, space, and often both. Ultimately, however, he wrote about human nature, regardless of the scene in which questions of being human were being posed, making him one of the literary giants of the twentieth century. This is probably what made him the ideal choice when John Huston needed a writer to prepare the script for the film he wished to make of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Today’s aspiring writers can learn as much from studying that script as they can from deep reading of Melville’s text.

Bradbury’s real métier, however, was the short story. To paraphrase that great virtue espoused by Buckminster Fuller, Bradbury had a real gift for saying more and more with less and less. I suppose that is one reason why so much of his work translated so well into the half-hour time slot of The Ray Bradbury Theater, whose six seasons provided a far more extensive account (65 stories worth) of his imaginative diversity than either The Twilight Zone or the tales adapted for the film The Illustrated Man.

With such a large body of work, it is hard to select a single favorite. I suspect that my wife would nominate “All Summer in a Day” fairly quickly. For my part I think back to when I taught a “book camp” as a summer activity for middle school kids. The focus was on full books, but I decided to fill out the final days with short stories. I began with Bradbury; and my selection was “The Veldt.” As the hyperlink suggests, the latter can be read from the screen. It should not take very long, and it is a perfect example of Bradbury’s artistry of both plot and discourse techniques for unfolding that plot. The best way to remember Bradbury today is to read his words, and following that hyperlink is one of the best ways to do that.

No comments: