Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What We All Wish We Could Have Told Ray Bradbury

Most of us never met Ray Bradbury, but he reached into our brains sometime between seventh and eighth grade, and he changed them. School officials probably put his books on their reading lists because his writing didn't have much explicit sex or violence, and because he generally used the kind of simple clear language that was accessible to kids. He got in under the radar. He seemed harmless enough, right? Just some stories about spacemen and haunted carnivals.

But to us, to those who read him at an early age, he was the first person who let us in on the secret. That life is strange and gorgeous and terrible. It would break our hearts, one by one. His stories taught that nothing is safe and nothing is without beauty. He was a sad, lyrical voice in our head that stayed with us through friendless lunch hours in the library, and late into the evening, long after midnight, after our parents stopped fighting and went to bed.

He was the first adult who didn't lie to us.

And we, millions of us, loved him for it.

(Photo by Alan Light, used under Creative Commons license. Information here.)


  1. Well said, Paul. Well said.

  2. "I am Poe, he thought. I am all that is left of Edgar Allan Poe, and I am all that is left of Ambrose Bierce and all that is left of a man named Lovecraft. I am a gray night bat with sharp teeth, and I am a square black monolith monster. I am Osiris and Bal and Set. I am the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. I am the house of Usher, falling into flame. I am the Red Death. I am the man mortared into the catacomb with a cask of Amontillado... I am a dancing skeleton. I am a coffin, a shroud, a lightning bolt reflected in an old house window. I am an autumn-empty tree, I am a rapping, flinging shutter. I am a a yellowed volume turned by a claw hand. I am an organ played in an attic at midnight. I am a mask, a skull mask behind an oak tree on the last day of October. I am a poison apple bobbling in a water tub for child noses to bump at, for child teeth to snap... I am a black candle lighted before an inverted cross. I am a coffin lid, a sheet with eyes, a foot-step on a black stairwell. I am Dunsany and Machen and I am the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I am The Monkey's Paw and I am The Phantom Rickshaw. I am the Cat and the Canary, The Gorilla, the Bat. I am the ghost of Hamlet's father on the castle wall."

    A little less of all those things in the world today. Alas.

  3. "This summer night deep down under the stars was all things you would ever feel or see or hear in your life, drowning you all at once."

  4. He rebuilt the house of Usher in our heads...


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