I don’t know quite why I am grieving so. His world rarely intersected with ours although he exerted considerable influence on television, theater and film–as well as generations of American writers. Yet the reported death of science fiction’s “poet laureate” Ray Bradbury in Los Angeles last night at the age of 91 is worth noting for its singular lack of theatrics. Bradbury was always a meticulous craftsman and artist, seemingly more interested in his work than in being a celebrity, and his fantastic flights of imagination reshaped popular culture through seminal works like “The Martian Chronicles,” “Farenheit 451,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “Dandelion Wine,” “R is for Rocket,” and many more.
I won’t miss him; he’s all around me. Bradbury is well-represented on my bookshelf and I’ve been drawn to his writings since my tweens; however, the world today seems a bit less magical with his passing–except for one thing: does anyone else find it tremendously appropriate that his death followed swiftly on the heels of the last transit of Venus for the next 105 years?
A galactic salute, if you will.
UPDATE: There are times when my kids leave me speechless. This is one of them. From my daughter at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore:
“I loved reading your old yellow paperback copies of Bradbury when I was in high school. Such beautiful stories, and it was wonderful knowing that I was loving the same things you loved when you were my age.
”Did you know that Paul and I met Mr. Bradbury once? He was a life-long friend of Ray Harryhausen, which is how we got invited to share some time with him. We went out to dinner with the two Rays and a group of guests at a convention, and I told Mr. Bradbury I wished he hadn’t killed Clarice in ‘Farenheit 451,’ and he laughed and said that he got letters from entire elementary school classes of kids who said the same thing. He kissed my cheek and told me about how he loved to write a little bit every day and that he tried to draw from every part of his life in his stories, even parts he didn’t entirely remember. He said that it wasn’t until years after he had written “Dandelion Wine” that he went to visit the town where he grew up and, in talking with a barber (I think) who used to know him and his family when he was very young, this man asked him if he remembered saving up dandelions in the summer to make wine. And it wasn’t until that moment that he realized he had drawn on his very earliest, almost subconscious childhood memories in telling his stories. He said he had thought those images had been a dream, but then he realized it was a memory, and he felt amazed and speechless.
“Anyway, it was really clear just from our short conversations that he carried around a tremendous sense of wonder and love for life. And he said the best advice he could give if I wanted to write was to write a little bit every day and be open to using all my life experiences to spark ideas.
”I just wanted to share those little memories with you today — thank you so much for introducing me to his books, he was an amazing writer and seemed like a very kind and lovely person.”
Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR