He expanded our dreams by expanding the possibilities in our own back yards. He was an artist as much as a technician and, wielding that great talent, he reminded us of the sacred value of the word. He did this in very practical ways—from his strong support of public libraries as pillars of a healthy community to his eloquent novels themselves.
Ray Bradbury is dead at 91.
TODAY: We bring you the very best Bradbury remembrances from across the Internet.
Why salute him in our pages? The journalists at ReadTheSpirit bring readers “spiritual connection for everyday living.” We say that the most important spiritual questions in a person’s life are: Why should I get out of bed this morning? How can I make it through another stressful day? And, at the end of the day, what matters in my life? Ray Bradbury understood that those questions truly animate us as humans. He described this in many ways. In Fahrenheit 451, he expressed it this way: “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing.”
Did Bradbury think in spiritual terms? Absolutely. It’s no accident that Fahrenheit 451 is, by far, his most quoted novel to this day. In fact, the headstone he chose for his grave in Los Angeles is inscribed simply: “Author of Fahrenheit 451”
The final lines of the 200-page novel bring readers full circle from a horrifically secular culture, bent on burning all books to stamp out individual thinking—to the little band of people who are committed to memorizing these vanishing books. Montag is the latest convert to this brave band and, as he searches for a book to preserve, he turns to the final chapter of the Bible. Here are those lines from Fahrenheit 451:
Now there was a long morning’s walk until noon, and if the men were silent it was because there was everything to think about and much to remember. Perhaps later in the morning, when the sun was up and had warmed them they would begin to talk, or just say the things they remembered, to be sure they were there, to be absolutely certain that things were safe in them. Montag felt the slow stir of words, the slow simmer. And when it came his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on a day like this, to make the trip a little easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else? Something, something—“And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Yes, thought Montag, that’s the one I’ll save for noon. For noon.
When we reach the city.
RAY BRADBURY, BILL TAMMEUS: ‘ALL ABOUT LOVE’
In a short-and-sweet farewell to Bradbury, religion newswriter Bill Tammeus sums up this theme for readers (and Bill provides a link to a very fine San Francisco Chronicle piece on Bradbury also echoing these ideas). Tammeus writes in part:
Bradbury was all about love and was willing to shine a satirical spotlight on those aspects of life that were in tension with love. His novel Fahrenheight 451 anticipated much that remains distorted about our popular culture, so much of which is in tension with the very eternal values Bradbury promoted.
RAY BRADBURY, LA TIMES: ‘INTO THE REALM OF LITERATURE’
Ray Bradbury adopted Los Angeles as his hometown and one of the best commentaries on his life comes from LA Times writer Lynell George. The LA Times article also has links to some wonderful photos related to Bradbury’s life and work. Writing for the Times, Lynell George says, in part:
Author of more than 27 novels and story collections—most famously “The Martian Chronicles,” “Fahrenheit 451: A Novel,” “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.
“The only figure comparable to mention would be [Robert A.] Heinlein and then later [Arthur C.] Clarke,” said Gregory Benford, a UC Irvine physics professor who is also a Nebula award-winning science fiction writer. “But Bradbury, in the ’40s and ’50s, became the name brand.”
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. …
He offered a set of metaphors and life puzzles to ponder for the rocket age and beyond, and has influenced a wide swath of popular culture—from children’s writer R.L. Stine and singer Elton John (who penned his hit “Rocket Man” as an homage), to architect Jon Jerde who enlisted Bradbury to consider and offer suggestions about reimagining public spaces.
RAY BRADBURY, BEN PRATT: COMPASSION SOFTENED BY ACCIDIE
Benjamin Pratt is the author of two books that interpret the ancient concept of accidie: Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass and A Guide For Caregivers: Keeping Your Spirit Healthy When Your Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities Are Dragging You Down. Upon Bradbury’s passing, Pratt sent ReadTheSpirit these thoughts:
Our Sunday Afternoon Reading Group toasted Ray Bradbury with dandelion wine. I don’t urge you to go out searching for it. We had read Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, a year ago but could not find a bottle of the wine until now. The tale provides glimpses into Bradbury’s early life in his childhood home in Waukegan, Illinois. The main character of the story is Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy, patterned loosely after Bradbury, revealing the simple joys of life in small town, Midwest America.
Ray Bradbury, a writer’s writer, often claimed that he was a man of deep gratitude and joy, but he was also a man who experienced what I have described as accidie in both of my books. Accidie is reflected in the following clip from Dandelion Wine, “Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, if seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.” I am grateful for the life, wisdom and curiosity of Ray Bradbury.
RAY BRADBURY, CHICAGO TRIBUTE / VARIETY: ‘MAGICIAN OF WORDS’
Before the movie bug bit, I owed nearly all my fantasies to Ray Bradbury. A magician of words, the science-fiction author took me to Venus and Mars, to the bottom of the sea and to dinosaur-infested jungles. He wove tales that began in a backyard just like my own and bloomed into possibilities never before dreamed, where robot grandmothers watch over lonely kids and a crushed butterfly might alter the path of time. … It was Bradbury who taught me that metaphor—not stereoscopic 3D glasses—make a story come to life, that only sentiment, sincere and undiluted by irony, truly has the power to move. It was Bradbury’s writing that made me want to write. I am hardly the only wordsmith inspired by the master. Everyone from Neil Gaiman to Stephen King credits Bradbury with catalyzing his desire to tell stories.
RAY BRADBURY, JANE WELLS: ‘PERMISSION TO CREATE’
Jane Wells is the author of Glitter in the Sun: A Bible Study Searching for Truth in the Twilight Saga. Bradbury’s passing summoned deep, personal memories of her long-range friendship with the author through the connection of libraries and books …
I grew up in rural Northern Michigan, a region rich with beauty, but poor in most other categories. My one-horse hometown of Alanson had a tiny library shoehorned into a small former office space in the community building/firehouse. Every week, all summer long, from probably the age of 13 on, I made that 6-mile round-trip on my bike to return the “empties” and restock a fresh batch of science fiction and fantasy. Ray Bradbury was one of my very favorites.
His mechanical houses, men with prescient tattoos, and Martian landscapes took me millions of miles away from my dusty backyard where I perched on a swing or in a tree and read for hours. It was during those timeless summer days I came to the realization that this was something I wanted to do to. I wanted to write books, and the definition of “book” by default was synonymous with science fiction.
It is clear now I will probably never write about Martians—although that was my initial most fervent desire. I’m afraid Mr. Bradbury completely owns that topic. I can however write about political strife in a steampunk world and be fairly certain I’m breaking new ground of my own. However, for that permission to write, to create something completely new and unseen by anyone else before, I am undyingly grateful.
RAY BRADBURY, BOSTON GLOBE: ‘MADE NORMALCY FANTASTIC’
I’m always 8 years old when I read Ray Bradbury, the great American writer who passed away Wednesday. Eight is the age at which I discovered “The Martian Chronicles.” I was too young and didn’t understand most of it, but I got the general idea:
“One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing the roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets. And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew open. Windows flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer’s ancient green lawns. Rocket Summer.”
I remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck the first time I read these opening lines of “The Martian Chronicles.”
RAY BRADBURY, THE PLANETARY SOCIETY: ‘RAY’S PASSION’
Ray Bradbury was a friend to The Planetary Society, a nonprofit formed by scientists including Carl Sagan back in 1990 to promote planetary exploration. Mat Kaplan, the host of the group’s radio show, interviewed Bradbury many times and was struck by his personal humor, passion and kindness. In his remembrance of Bradbury, he recalls:
I remember, with special fondness, a birthday party we threw for Ray here at the Planetary Society. It was August of 2003. Mars was closer to Earth than it had been for many years. After conducting yet another interview, I asked Ray for a favor. My daughter was in her high school’s theater adaptation of The Martian Chronicles. Would he record a message for the production? No hesitation. He launched into a lovely, entirely improvised welcoming speech that brought tears to my eyes, as it would later bring tears to the eyes of the cast and audiences.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.