Posts tagged ‘Ray Bradbury’

June 10, 2012

R.I.P. Rocket Man, Ray Bradbury

While the news isn’t new, I couldn’t not post something about the passing of visionary, Ray Bradbury. When I read the news that he had died on Tuesday, I was in Dallas on a layover. Although I always suspected his time wasn’t far off as he was getting up there in years, the news made me swell up with grief .

I discovered Bradbury when my 9th grade English teacher handed out copies of Fahrenheit 451. From then on, I was hooked. I tried  out some other science fiction after discovering Bradbury but nothing could match his dark, lyrical genius. He surpassed any genre. His stories were more about human beings than outer space or robots.

Three random things of note (to me, anyway):

1) I remember almost meeting him once about 12 years ago. There was a writing conference here in Tucson that he was supposed to attend. I raced over to discover he had to stay home due to a small stroke.

2) I bought The Bradbury Chronicles about three weeks ago and it’s on my bedside table.

3) How apropos that he left this world on the day of the the Venusian eclipse.

In honor of Mr. Bradbury’s passing, here is a scene that has stuck with me for years. It’s a short story called “Kaleidoscope” from The Illustrated Man. This is the very end of the story when Hollis, an astronaut whose rocket has blown up, is racing toward earth and toward his death:

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about. When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor. “I wonder” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”  The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois. “Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

December 5, 2011

Vonnegut’s Dark Side and What Lurks Behind a Writer’s Words

A negative tell-all has Kurt Vonnegut fans glowering. And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles Shields depicts the literary giant as a sad, angry, and sometimes cruel man. Shield’s look at Vonnegut delves into his personal woes, which included a failed first marriage, a bad second marriage, and fall-outs with his kids.

This doesn’t sit well with critics. The Guardian calls it “unsparing in its portrayal of Vonnegut’s dark side.”  The New York Times called Shields’s portrayal “sad, often heartbreaking”.  I can understand not wanting to read the harsh realities of  someone’s life, especially someone who wrote funny, witty novels sprinkled with obvious fondness for the written word.

Too bad life doesn’t imitate art.

Honestly, from what I’ve read, I’m surprised Vonnegut wasn’t downright insane.  He wasn’t exactly dealt an easy hand. When Vonnegut was in the Army and home on a pass visiting his parents, his mother committed suicide. This was on Mother’s Day. Later, as a P.O.W. in World War II, he was torchered by a German guard. Following these events, his sister and her husband died within the space of a day and Vonnegut took their kids in with his own, despite not being emotionally or financially up for the job.

On a side note, a professor in graduate school once told me he was at a party at Vonnegut’s  back in the ’70s. Apparently Vonnegut was drunk and yelling about how much he hated poets. He then turned to said-professor and chastised him for being one of those “lousy poets” to which said-professor took a swing at Vonnegut and hit him in the jaw.

Personally, I  don’t want the dirt on those who write my favorite books. When I found out that Ray Bradbury is cantankerous, I was heartbroken.  How could a man who wrote lines like, “There are those days which seem a taking in of breath which, held, suspends the whole earth in its waiting.” be a grouch?  Despite this desire to preserve my smoochy-boochy writer fantasy, there are some writers who make their demons into their career and it’s no big surprise to learn they went batshit crazy in the end. Take Sylvia Plath, for example. Her dark fantasies made incredible poetry and I read nearly every one of her biographies with salacious delight.

In the end, the I-don’t-want-to-meet-my-hero-because-he-might-be-an-asshole choice might be the best one. Or maybe we should just adjust our expectations into not believing that everyone should make lemonade when life hands them lemons. It’s hard not to expect lemonade, however, from a writer who wrote about aliens that look like toilet plungers.

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