Science fiction has never been high on my reading list. There was The Day of the Triffids that was required reading at school, and after that, well, I simply don’t remember. But after reading Walter Pless’s valediction for Ray Bradbury and glancing at a couple of other obituaries today, I feel that I have missed out on something. Not just the stories, but on the man who wrote them and who, from all accounts, was a spontaneous and generous human being, unspoiled by success and totally in love with his craft. Another plus: he had a 56-year marriage with his wife Marguerite, and four daughters.
Bradbury was eccentric in a rather charming way: he never travelled by air or drove a car. And although he foresaw an uncanny number of technological developments, he criticised the use of computers and the internet. But he achieved what few writers today seem able to do today -- he captured the attention of boys. From what I hear, anyone who can get boys to read books deserves profound respect. Of course, there is stiffer competition these days from techno gadgetry, but perhaps there is also some vital ingredient lacking in much of what is churned out for teenagers.
This is a clue I picked up: Bradbury said that all of his stories, no matter how fantastic or frightening they might be, were metaphors for everyday life. And they all came from his childhood. “The great thing about my life is that everything I’ve done is a result of what I was when I was 12 or 13,” he said in 1982. I like the sound of that creativity anchored in real human experience. Perhaps that is why I am more likely to read Fahrenheit 451 than Twilight or The Hunger Games.
In other articles today: Michael Cook plays devil’s advocate to Canadian writer and convert to Catholicism Michael Coren, who has just published a book called Heresey: Ten Lies they Spread About Christianity. Lawyer James Cole explains the judicial legerdemain that enabled a US appeals court last week to declare part of the Defence of marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. And George Friedman discerns the twilight of counterinsurgency wars.