I see this morning that Ray Bradbury has left us. I always wanted to meet Ray, not so much as a fan of his stories – to be honest, I haven’t read much of his sci-fi beyond what was required in high school – but I wanted to meet him just to say I did.
Most of the people who are “required reading” in our school English classes are as dead to us as Millard Fillmore. Hemingway shot himself a year before I was born. Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and others all wrote and lived in a dusty past that is long gone even to my generation, and I’m no spring chicken.
When I lived in the L.A. area a few years back, Ray Bradbury was still showing up at libraries and book get-togethers around the Southern California region. I just thought it would be cool to meet someone who is iconic enough to have made it into our English curriculum. Kind of like a kid learning about the Civil War in history class and then finding out Abraham Lincoln was holding a Q & A session at the local branch library.
Most of the people we get exposed to in school are of the distant past, or public figures who aren’t accessible to us. But there was Ray, who lived in the future but didn’t drive a car and didn’t fly in a plane until he was forced to in middle age, still out there talking about writing and imagination and creativity to anyone who was interested.
He was in love with what he did, and even if it’s not my particular “thing”, I still enjoyed reading some of his other essays and interviews, like Zen in the Art of Writing.
I came close a few times but unfortunately never had a chance to actually see Ray Bradbury. For some reason it was one of those things we think we’ll always be able to do later, but never seems to happen.
When Ray was about 12, he went to a fair and saw a performer called “Mr. Electrico” who shot sparks out his fingertips. He pointed at Ray and shot him with a bolt, saying “LIVE FOREVER!”.
I think Ray Bradbury will indeed live forever.