Live Forever, Ray Bradbury!

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Ray Bradbury has died.

What this boiled down to, personally, is that yesterday was not a very good day for me.

Ray Bradbury has been my favorite writer for as long as I can remember. I don’t know that he was every considered a very hip writer — I’ve worked at too many jobs where I mentioned his name to coworkers and got a lot of blank stares in reply. But I know that he’s pretty solidly beloved by science fiction writers, fantasy writers, horror writers, just about every writer under the sun. I’ve loved the stuffing out of him since I was a little kid. I never got to meet him, I never exchanged mail with him, but I always thought of him as a personal friend — it always amazed me that everything he wrote felt like it had been written with me in mind. And more than likely, most of his other readers felt the same way. That’s an amazing gift.

I’ve been trying to remember what my first Ray Bradbury story was, and I’m pretty sure it was “The Homecoming,” which was the last story in a book called “Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum” that I read when I was a kid. And really, “The Homecoming” is very nearly my favorite of Bradbury’s stories — it’s about a normal kid who lives in a family of monsters and his sadness that he’ll never really be part of them. It’s a lyrical story, like so many of his other stories. It’s beautiful and poetic, funny and creepy. It’s a valentine for all of us who grew up identifying with the monsters and counting down the days to Halloween. And it’s also intensely sad. The last few hundred words are about the saddest you’ll read.

My favorite of his novels is doubtlessly “Dandelion Wine,” which is absolutely one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Its description of a Midwestern summer is so perfect that for years I’d re-read it every winter — I needed a dose of that Bradbury summer to get me through the cold months. But now is a good time to read it, too. Read it through the summer, go for walks in the woods, enjoy your ice cream and new sneakers. Ray Bradbury’s summer is something that should never end.

Ray got kinda weirdly political in the past few years, but I could never bring myself to hold it against him. He gave me “The Homecoming” and “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “The Martian Chronicles” and “There Shall Come Soft Rains” and “Kaleidoscope” and “The Halloween Tree” and “The Small Assassin” and “A Sound of Thunder” and “The Toynbee Convector” and “The Pedestrian” and “The Fog Horn” and “Zen in the Art of Writing” and “Hail and Farewell” and “Last Rites” and “The Murderer” and “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair” and “The Anthem Runners” and “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed” and more and more and more and more. I can forgive almost anything for someone who’s given me so much.

I haven’t been the only person to note that the chronicler of Mars died just after the transit of Venus. I can’t have been the only one to wonder that he died just before a summer like the one he wrote about in his Green Town stories. I’m certainly not the only person who’s remembering his glorious tale about how a carnival performer called Mr. Electrico inspired him by jolting him with electricity and shouting at him to “Live forever!” Because he will. I know it. You know it.

Thank you, Ray, for everything you’ve done for us. Thank you for being our friend. Thank you for living forever.

1 Comment

  1. Facty Said,

    June 7, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

    I have a very special place in my heart for Ray Bradbury. He was kind and generous and wonderful to my friend Brett, who had leukemia.

    Yesterday and today have been bittersweet, with lots of memories of Brett being traded among his friends. I am so glad Ray Bradbury lived and wrote and was such a great person.