Ray Bradbury. Portrait by Michel Fainsilber.
By Steve Rosenblum
Ray Bradbury has passed away at age 91.
I attribute my love of reading to Mr. Bradbury. Every summer of my childhood my sisters and I spent much of each summer at the small cottage my mother's parents had built during the late 1940s in Petoskey, on Little Traverse Bay in the "Tip of the Mitt" region of Michigan. At the time (late '50s and '60s), our father was a builder and later a real estate developer, and his busiest working season was during the hot Michigan summers. Our mother took us up to Petoskey where we stayed either with our immediate family or with various permutations and combinations of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We (thankfully) had no television and were expected to generate our own entertainment. At the beginning of each summer we were marched over to the Petoskey Public Library and were issued library cards. The library was one of those old buildings that had been built due to the largess of the Carnegie family throughout the country in the 1930s. It was cool and quiet in there and had that distinctive musty smell of aging books. I learned to love that smell and would take a few books out, devour them, and then go get some more. Many a long summer afternoon was spent under the shade of a tree or on the front porch of the cottage reading a book.
The first books that really caught my attention and got me hooked for life on reading were by Ray Bradbury. I was probably 11 or 12 at the time. It was easy to get entranced by the worlds he created out of words. The country was in the midst of the "Space Race," and new, seemingly impossible achievements were in the headlines every week. In just a few more years we would walk on the moon! Reading stories about the future and what it might bring and about the conquest of Mars and other celestial places seemed very much within the realm of possibility. But the main thing that hooked me about Bradbury's work was his exploration of inner space—our humanity was the unifying theme of all of his work. Most amazing was that most of those stories were written in the early '50s, long before any real space race. And yet he foresaw everything, from space travel to flat screens. He wrote about three dimensional screens that could turn a room into the projection of one's own imagination including sound, smell, and emotion. In Fahrenheit 451, he warned us about the consequences of the technological, totalitarian state. In Dandelion Wine he wrote the best description of childhood I have ever read.
So, today I toast Ray Bradbury and beam him my lifelong admiration. If you have not already done so, I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy of The Illustrated Man, find a shady tree, and disappear into the book.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Johan Grahn: "The name Ray Bradbury also reminds me of my youth when I read loads of SF. The novel Something Wicked This Way Comes is on my list of recommended works by Mr. Bradbury."
Featured Comment by Steve Jacob: "Indeed, a long and illustrious career. I have read everything he wrote. He was the Nabokov of his genre. A serious writer of immense quality and imagination."
Featured Comment by Peter Hovmand: "Yeah, he led to my first interest in reading...which made me a writer (in Danish)...I owe him big time. Thanks, and rest in peace, Mr. Bradbury."