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August 22, 2003

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury

Posted by Mike on August 22, 2003 6:45 PM

Ray Bradbury is 83 today.

Some of the first "real" books I remember reading were his "The Illustrated Man," "A Medicine for Melancholy," "The Martian Chronicles," and "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Some of them, especially some of the stories in "The Illustrated Man," were pretty easy for a third or fourth grader to digest as literal readings. Others, particularly "Something Wicked This Way Comes," took a few years of growing up to get.

I hadn't thought much about the craft behind those stories as a young child, but when I was in the midst of a fiction class with tight restrictions on the amount of writing we were permitted to do for each assignment, I found myself turning back to his short fiction and examining the way in which he could tell entire, satisfying stories in the space of just a few pages. In the process of re-reading his work, I came to realize just how much his sensibilities had an effect on me over the years.

This morning's NPR remembrance, for instance, of the 1963 March on Washington, had me thinking of "The Other Foot," part of Bradbury's use of Mars as a magical other place where race could be spoken about in a way that wouldn't be acceptable were the story to take place somewhere "real." My reading of Martin Luther King, Jr. tells me he would have appreciated Bradbury's sensibilities.

Here's an interesting study guide to "The Martian Chronicles" that provides an even-handed look at Bradbury's work; and Hit and Run has a few links to suit its own agenda (no less worth reading, even if they are predictable).