One of my favorite authors died last month. Ray Bradbury passed away on June 5, 2012, at the age of ninety-one.
His obituary was carried in most major papers. The New York Times said Bradbury was “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream.”
The Los Angeles Times credited Bradbury with the ability “to write lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here-and-now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity.”
The Washington Post mentioned several modern-day technologies that Bradbury had envisioned in his writing, such as the idea of banking ATMs and Bluetooth headsets from Fahrenheit 451, and the concepts of artificial intelligence within I Sing the Body Electric.
In reading about his life, I knew Bradbury, an avid reader, was a strong supporter of public libraries. In fact, he once told The Paris Review, “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries.” Like so many others during the Depression, Bradbury had no money for such an extravagance. “I couldn’t go to college,” he said, “so I went to the library three days a week.”
Bradbury also said something else I agree with: “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do … and they don’t.” Writers learn to write by writing.
And, although I’m not sure they play the same role they once did, I believe libraries still serve a purpose, if only for the computer access they can give to those without it; a place for young readers to learn the joys of good storytelling; and the quiet opportunity they provide for reading and study that is so often missing in our hectic and “connected” world.
Unfortunately, Bradbury also exhibited skepticism with regard to modern technology by resisting the conversion of his work into e-books. Fahrenheit 451 is the only one of his works Bradbury conceded to publish in an electronic form, when its copyright came up for renewal in 2011.
So, you won’t find Bradbury’s books as e-books for the Kindle on Amazon, or anywhere else. I strongly disagree with that. I think the current generation of readers need the opportunity to read Bradbury’s books, and without electronic access, many of them never will.
“Dandelion Wine” no longer a part of a young person’s literary life? I think that’s a shame.