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A Marvelous Arrival Awaits

March 2024

Dear (if I ‍may be so bold) Ray,

I ​read Jonathan‍ R. Eller’s collection of your correspondence, from the fan mail you sent in‌ your youth to the letters and emails you sent in 2007. Eller writes that, before your death in 2012, you approved⁢ of his publishing ⁢some of your‌ letters: “Oh sure, oh yeah,” you said, “because ‍it’s the story of my life.” ⁢That’s exactly what the book is—autobiography, yet⁣ somehow more authentic because‌ the autobiographer was writing of his experiences while ‌living them.

You critiqued plenty of books‌ throughout ‍your life, Ray, so you can understand Remembrance is a hard book ⁤to review.⁣ So many letters are so personal—those to your parents, of course, ⁣and those to friends, especially amid an‌ argument. But then, you were always personal in your writing, weren’t you? A ‌Bradbury story is always autobiographical, certainly in feeling and usually also in fact, from ⁤the earliest Weird Tales ⁤submissions on. OK, so maybe you didn’t ‌really meet the powers of darkness in the form of a traveling carnival, but Something Wicked This Way Comes‘s Mr. ​Electrico was real, you explained, and formative on you. OK, so maybe⁤ firemen ‍aren’t yet hired to burn books, but you always could see, and target, the insidiousness of thought control. (How sad you would be now, if you could see the cruel iconoclasm that accompanies today’s “wokeness,” politicization of everything, and cancel ‌culture.) And, of course,⁤ Something Wicked and Dandelion ‌Wine‘s Green​ Town is your idealized Waukegan, Ill., where you grew up and which you capture with the skill ⁢and Americana of, yes, Mark Twain.

I was in elementary school when I discovered one of your⁢ stories in the library—I think it was “The Black Ferris.”​ A mysterious circus comes to town on the wings of the October wind (“like a dark bat flying over the cold lake”), bringing a ⁣Ferris wheel that can reverse the⁣ flow of time? I ⁣was hooked.⁤ On to ​ The Martian Chronicles, The October Country, and the other glorious short stories! On ⁢to Something Wicked and—eventually—Dandelion Wine! I came to realize, at some point, that a story like The Martian Chronicles‘ “Mars Is Heaven”‌ (my favorite Bradbury, then and now) doesn’t have much⁢ to do at all with the fourth planet from the sun. Your Mars exists in the longings ‍of the human soul—the reason the ⁤story is so moving and so terrifying. The Martian Chronicles can “be read on Mars … one hundred years from⁢ now,” you noted in a 1996 letter, because you were writing “mythology,⁢ not scientific fact.” And what is mythology, after all, but our stumbling first attempts to cope‍ with the world, the universe, and the divine?

You made this point both ‍in interviews and in these letters. “Fantasy must⁤ not just be fantasy,”⁢ you wrote in a 1981​ analysis ⁢of Something Wicked, “it must be rooted in metaphor.” (If only more fantasy ‍and sci-fi writers nowadays understood this!) The power of metaphor, ​of meaning, of⁤ mythopoeia,⁤ overshadows the arbitrary genre distinctions beloved of critics. “I don’t‍ write stories with labels‌ at all, if I‍ can help it,” you explained in 1951. “I write ‘stories.’ I write stories the best​ I know how, at all times.”

That you did, with ⁢that‍ inimitable prose style—poetic but​ not ⁣purple, with‌ the honesty and precision of one of your favorites, Robert Frost—for over 70 years.‌ Your ⁣gift ⁣for prose shows up throughout Remembrance, with phrases funny (“they both breathed blarney and barley”), writerly (“I would be delighted [hell, what a weak word] to try my hand ​at it”), and contemplative: ​”I still feel like the boy who woke up summer mornings in Illinois thirty years ago,” you wrote in 1960. “Hell, it’s ⁣a ‍collaboration between him and me still, anyway, his early delights, and‌ my later wisdoms knocking together and coming out in stories.”

I was particularly‌ struck by a letter you ​wrote to a friend, ‌in the middle of⁤ a ⁢fight. “I hope this friction cools off quickly. We all need friends and life is so damnably,‍ tritely, ⁤short.” That​ tritely is the Bradbury touch.

You may‌ be surprised, as I was, by ⁣how Eller organized the⁤ book—not totally chronologically but thematically. The letters in‌ each section are chronological, but then the reader moves on to ‍the ⁢next section and is back in your early days. (I was amused ⁣by how many novelists, politicians, filmmakers,‍ actors, journalists, philosophers,⁢ etc., with whom ⁤you corresponded—Ray, is there anyone you didn’t know?) I understood why Eller made that choice, though, ⁢as ⁢I read on: A straightforward progression ‌would be too much. After reading ⁣letters ⁣from three U.S. presidents and the Pulitzer committee,​ we need a reminder ⁤of when you were working your way up, paying‌ your dues,⁤ toiling in the‌ pulps. The⁤ future, in other words, leads us to the‌ past… I think you would have liked that.

I could ⁢say much more. ‍I loved ⁣your rightly ‍incensed letter to a far-left‌ editor who ​wanted you ⁤to change a story to align with his publication’s politics. He could‌ criticize style, characterization, and structure, you told him, ‌but “when you begin telling me how my theme should be angled ⁤sociologically or politically, I am going to​ pack my belongings and trot ⁤out ⁢the front door.” Hear⁤ hear!

But ⁣I’ll stop there, ⁣except to say ‌that throughout the ⁢book⁣ you refer to your novels, stories, and poems ⁢as “yarns.” Is that fair for⁢ someone of your ⁤talent, ⁣someone who broke the barriers between genre and ‍”literary” fiction, who reminded us of wonder? But maybe, ultimately, just spinning a yarn is a writer’s highest achievement—a yarn that will withstand time and become mythology, ready for Martians to read 100 years hence.

Thanks, Mr. B., ⁣for ⁢the letters, for‍ the⁣ wisdom, and for⁣ the yarns.

Karl

Remembrance: Selected Correspondence of Ray ⁣Bradbury
by Ray Bradbury, edited by Jonathan⁤ R.‍ Eller
Simon & Schuster, ⁤528‌ pp., $35

In ‌what ways​ did Ray Bradbury use fantasy to confront ‌and ⁤understand the human experience?

‍ N short,” you wrote. It’s such a simple ⁢statement, but it speaks volumes about the importance of friendship and the challenges we face in maintaining those relationships. And yet, despite the struggles, you always⁤ found a way to connect ⁣with people, through⁣ your words and your stories.

Your⁤ writing, Ray, has touched the lives of so many.⁣ It’s‍ remarkable ‍to think that your⁢ stories,⁤ filled‍ with fantastical elements and otherworldly settings, are ⁤rooted ⁤in the deep and universal truths of the human ⁤experience. You understood that fantasy is ⁤not simply‍ an escape from reality, but a way ‌for us to confront and understand our own lives.

In a‌ world that is often filled with chaos and uncertainty, your stories offer ​a sense‌ of hope and wonder.​ They remind​ us of the power of imagination and the beauty that can be found in the ordinary. ‌You once wrote, “Everything I write is like the early⁢ sun in Illinois, coming up ‍golden over a field ⁣of fresh corn.” That ‌image​ perfectly captures the warmth and optimism ‌that ‍permeates your work.

But ​your writing was ​not just about escapism. It was also a reflection of the times in‌ which you lived. You used your‍ stories to shine a light on the injustices and dangers of the world. You saw the insidiousness of thought control ⁤and the‌ dangers of ‌censorship long before they became ⁤buzzwords⁣ in our⁣ contemporary society. Your ⁤words‍ still resonate with relevance today, reminding us of the importance of free expression and the dangers of silencing dissenting voices.

Ray, your impact on literature and popular culture is immeasurable. Your stories have been read by millions‍ and have inspired countless writers and artists. You were not only‍ a master‌ storyteller but also a true lover of literature. You once⁤ said, “Libraries ​raised me. 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.”

Your love for libraries and your belief in ‍the power of books to educate and inspire⁢ is⁣ evident in your work. ⁢Your stories are a ⁣testament to⁣ the transformative power of literature, and they continue to captivate readers of all ages.

March 2024 marks twelve years since your passing, Ray, but your legacy lives on. Your words continue to transport us‍ to other worlds, challenge our ⁢perceptions,​ and remind us ⁢of the​ beauty and⁣ fragility of⁣ our own ​existence. Your stories are a gift, and we ‍are grateful for the time⁣ you spent with us, sharing your innermost thoughts and dreams.

In Remembrance of‍ Ray Bradbury,

[Your Name]
Read More From Original Article Here: Something Wondrous This Way Comes

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