In honor of the great Ray Bradbury who died ten years ago in June 2012, I’m reposting this story about what I learned from him:
I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.
That’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter was three months old, and my son was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.
Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from our house and the hotel where he was scheduled to speak at a writer’s conference. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.
It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.
Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.
“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”
How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice all those years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s never too late to start.
My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius. I’m still striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was.
“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing
Are you a Ray Bradbury fan? What are your favorite books of his? Who are your favorite authors?
I haven’t read enough of him to be, or not be a fan. But, what I’ve read is quite good
Listening to him speak made me appreciate him more. I went to four talks by him.
I am so glad you reposted this. Thank you.
I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I remember reading Fahrenheit 451 in- probably high school I imagine- and being appalled to think anything like that could ever happen. I wouldn’t be surprised at all now sadly. I think he was the first author of dystopian fiction I ever read. I still love that genre.
I think I’m going to recommend the book for my bookclub. It would be interesting to read it today and see how much of it has come true. I remember one bit where people’s walls were giant TVs and they all had ear buds in their ears and they couldn’t think for themselves.
Good idea. I bet the comparisons could be strangely similar with a good deal of our society today
I was surprised that many in our book club had never read it.
I read it, or maybe reread it, in my classics book group. Spurred my interest somewhat in reading some of his lesser-known works.
Ray Bradbury is an author I’ve never read. However, it is never too late to begin.
But, interestingly, he was born and reared not far from where I now live.
You should read Fahrenheit 451. It’s applicable today even though it was written in the 1950s. I’m thinking of picking it for book club when it’s my turn to select a book. That’s interesting that he grew up near you.
How cool you got to meet him. I should check out his book on writing. I’ve read of his novels.
He is so inspirational in person. Or was, RIP.