Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, RIP

Ray Bradbury died today, 91 years of age. I read much of his work when I was a teenager and particularly appreciated Fahrenheit 451 [I loved books] and Something Wicked This Way Comes [and I inhabited the local library]. I'm not a great science fiction fan and he wasn't really, for the most part, a science fiction author, although usually placed in that genre. From the Los Angeles Times obituary:
Author of more than 27 novels and story collections — most famously The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes — and more than 600 short stories, Bradbury has frequently been credited with elevating the often maligned reputation of science fiction. Some say he singlehandedly helped to move the genre into the realm of literature. ....

Much of Bradbury's accessibility and ultimate popularity had to do with his gift as a stylist — his ability to write lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here and now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity. ....

“I'm not a science fiction writer,” he was frequently quoted as saying. “I've written only one book of science fiction [Fahrenheit 451]. All the others are fantasy. Fantasies are things that can't happen, and science fiction is about things that can happen.”

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., to Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and the former Esther Marie Moberg. As a child he soaked up the ambiance of small-town life — wraparound porches, fireflies and the soft, golden light of late afternoon — that would later become a hallmark of much of his fiction. ....
In Enemies of the Permanent Things Russell Kirk included Bradbury, along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, in a chapter titled "Rediscovering Norms Through Fantasy." Discussing Bradbury's Martian Chronicles Kirk writes:
.... When called a moralist, Ray Bradbury accepts the impeachment willingly. The desiccated intellectuality of Logicalism is a dying or dead thing; and therefore it is evil, for life is good, and its own object. One of his early explorers of Mars discovers that the extinct Martians had lived by a truth which modern man has lost:
They knew how to live with nature and get along with nature. They didn't try too hard to be all men and no animal. That's the mistake we made when Darwin showed up. We embraced him and Huxley and Freud, all smiles. And then we discovered that Darwin and our religions didn't mix. Or at least we didn't think they did. We were fools. We tried to budge Darwin and Huxley and Freud. They wouldn't move very well. So, like idiots, we tried knocking down religion.

We succeeded pretty well. We lost our faith and went around wondering what life was for. If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people." .... [Russell Kirk, Enemies of the Permanent Things, Arlington House, 1969, p. 121]
Author Ray Bradbury dies at 91 - latimes.com