I write about the passing of Ray Bradbury with a heavy heart. Good journalism usually begins with keeping a respectful distance from your subject, in an effort to stay objective and report faithfully; in discussing Mr. Bradbury and his work, I find that to be an impossible task. The very nature of his writing was designed to engage the reader through beautifully worded phrases, vivid sensory description, and empathy to the human condition. Ray’s stories were personal even when they were larger than life, and they were never free of emotion and passion. To try and report on such a writer by keeping him at arm’s length would be insincere, and I can say with no hyperbole that Ray Bradbury was my hero.
My love for Ray Bradbury was ignited by Fahrenheit 451. I had already been a prolific young reader, and the concept of a world without books was a nightmare worse than the horrors unleashed by more the more traditional monsters I had read about in other genre fiction. I wasted little time in exploring more of Bradbury’s work, devouring Something Wicked This Way Comes(still my personal favorite) and the Illustrated Man. My local library possessed a copy of Zen in the Art of Writing, Bradbury’s celebration on the art of writing and the joys it brought to his own life. I had previously had no desire to be a storyteller, but the intensity of Bradbury’s passion lit a fire in me, and made me realize that I had stories of my own to tell. Writing remains an important part of my life, and is just one of the many gifts that Ray has given to me between the covers of his books.
I could go through his stories one by one, singing the praises of my favorite tales and telling you which to read(really all of them, but don’t miss The Emmisary!), but it would be a waste of words. Instead I will recount, without doing it justice, my favorite of Bradbury’s anecdotes about his own life: At the age of 12 Ray attended a carnival where he encountered a sideshow performer by the name of Mr. Electrico. Mr. Electrico sat in an electric chair and tapped young Ray on his shoulders and nose while proclaiming “Live forever!”. I had always believed and hoped as Ray crawled up in age that these words were in fact a prophecy, and that we would never lose a living legend. The news of his death disappointed me: Ray would never write again, and Mr. Electrico was just a phony sideshow performer.; afterall, we lost Ray. But as I reopened my own dog eared copies of Ray’s work and started to reread some of my favorite stories to comfort myself, I felt him, alive between the pages, crackling with imagination. In his stories, and the people he inspired, Mr. Electrico’s declaration was in fact, on the nose: Live forever, Ray Bradbury. Live forever.