Books Made the Man: Ray Bradbury’s Imaginary Travels
Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land? I loved to smell them when I was a boy. Lord, there were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go.
~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
There’s no better figurehead for a boatful of books than that fierce defender of libraries, Ray Bradbury, who died on June 6 at 91. His figurehead on our ship would take the shape of Mr. Electrico, the carnival magician who admonished the 12-year-old Bradbury to “live forever,” touching him with a static-charged sword that raised the boy’s hair on end. A nightmare version of that carnival appeared later in Bradbury’s novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
In his writing as well as his life, Bradbury championed literacy, learning and intellectual freedom. He raised funds to support the libraries that he said “raised” him. A plaque in UCLA’s Powell Library commemorates the basement room where he wrote his best-known book, Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which paper ignites) on a dime-a-time typewriter. That novel made a passionate case against anti-intellectualism by portraying a totalitarian society where “firemen” burn books and prize giant televisions.
Ironically, educators prevailed in changing 75 passages of the original text for classrooms before it was restored in 1980. It was subsequently banned in 1998 for (mild) obscenity by a Mississippi high school. Bradbury, a fan of comic books, later authorized a graphic version of the novel, illustrated by Tim Hamilton and published in 2009.
Although he couldn’t outsmart death, Bradbury happily filled every moment of his long life, writing almost daily for more than 70 years and producing some 600 published works (novels, short stories, screenplays, plays, television scripts, nonfiction and verse). Bridging genres, he earned both adult and child fans with stories that combined history and fantasy, science fact and fiction, a wordsmith’s ear for language and a showman’s sense of drama.
Ray Bradbury got his wish: his words will live forever in the imaginations of readers and writers everywhere.
Ellen Girardeau Kempler, All rights Reserved. Written For: Gold Boat Journeys