Ray Bradbury died yesterday. In memory, I wanted to re-post a piece I did about his writing a little over a year ago.
If, like me, Mr. Bradbury is directly responsible for many hours of enjoyable reading — and partially responsible for your love of literature — leave a comment about your favorite book or story.
This week: Ray Bradbury. For decades, my favorite author. He has his weak moments, but when the man is on….it’s like he’s mastered writing poetry for chapters at a time. Take for example the opening passages of Dandelion Wine and Farenheit 451.
It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living. This was the first morning of summer.
It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With this brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.
What impresses me most is how completely and perfectly he establishes the tone for each book – one an idyll through a preeten’s summer, the other a dystopian nightmare. And he does it with the same opening structure. His imagery, word choice and structure paint the exact picture you need to understand what kind of story to expect. Without resorting to pictures, he sets as clear an image in your mind as the establishing sequences in Blade Runner or Saving Private Ryan.
It’s hard to believe that the same language can paint both a pastoral, slow, comforting scene and the rushed, passionate, almost erotic horror of the future firefighter’s job. That’s what Bradbury and the other masters are able to create for us.
Before you go do something else, take a moment to read both those passages aloud. Taste them in your mouth. I’d love to hear a comment or three about how that felt.
Thanks for listening.
F451 is my favorite. I read it every five or six years whether I need to or not. Always find something new in there…and if you’ve never read it out loud, you should go do that.
BOTH books are on my favorites list. I remember reading DW and thinking how quietly magical and eternal childhood seemed.