I begin my lectures and presentations about Ray Bradbury with a confession. The confession is simple and one of which I express a deep sense of loss and a degree of shame. I did not start reading Ray Bradbury until a few years ago. I did not read him because I judged a book by its cover. There was a sense that I knew what his books would be about because the covers of his books told it all. One cannot be more wrong.
It was an endorsement I read on a Russell Kirk book that came from Ray Bradbury. I thought, if Ray Bradbury liked Russell Kirk, then maybe, just maybe, I might appreciate Ray Bradbury. After going to the local bookstore and buying Something Wicked This Way Comes and reading it, I was hooked. My repentance took the form of reading The Martian Chronicles and the delight and feeding of my mind was tremendous. I then went out and bought Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and a collection of his short stories. I have never been the same since. As a matter of fact, every Halloween season for the past six years I’ve re-read Something Wicked This Way Comes, and every first day of the summer for the past several years I have re-read Dandelion Wine.
Ray Bradbury’s passing brings to my mind numerous scenes in his novels and short stories where a character comes to the realization that life is a precious gift, and that gift is to be enjoyed. On numerous occasions, Ray noted his favorite novelist Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol makes this profound point when Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed by the ghosts that had visited him. That moment of “I’m alive, I’m alive,” is what it is all about in literature and life. For Bradbury’s own unique twist on this, read the short story “Jack-in-the Box.”
For the past few years I have been blessed to visit The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and gain such insight of Ray’s life and writings from the top two Bradbury scholars in the world (this is not an exaggeration), it has been equally as exhilarating giving lectures through the Big Read Events where thousands of people read, think about, and discuss Fahrenheit 451. A number of you who have read my blogs know that I even have a section “All Things Bradbury” as a partial testament that as a Professor of Great Books, I consider his writings as worthy to be added to the canon of the best books penned by the human hand.
One of my summer blog projects is to make the case that the novels of Ray Bradbury need to be rescued from middle school reading lists and make their way among serious readers. With Bradbury’s death, the hope is that now more literary scholars will give attention to his genius and explore his literary output and recognize that some of his writings deserve the designation of “masterpiece,” “classic” and “Great Book.”
Sad is the reality that now with Ray Bradbury’s passing many will give him proper attention and proper respect for being the extraordinary figure he was and is to the life of letters. If you have never read anything by Ray Bradbury, do what I did and go out and get some of his books and short stories. Be delighted, and receive a literary prompt to “live,” to really live before you die.
Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.