Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Yesterday to Forever

In his New Yorker essay that landed in mailboxes the week of his death, Ray Bradbury pretty much said that for a small-town child listening to the wind blow in the early 20th century, big cities were as distant as Mars -- so when airplanes had barely been invented, why not imagine a rocket?

"I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, 'Take me home!' I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities," he wrote, saying what had always been between the lines.

A proudly different autodidact, he invented the world he wanted to live in when he outgrew the one he was born in.

And even when success brought money and fame, he still went there:

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room,” he was quoted, in one of so many blossomings of memory that sprung up on his passing as quickly as dandelions on a summer lawn after the rain.

Bradbury wrote equally about rockets and Mars, and about memory, yearning and the machineries of joy -- from motherless children provided with a robot grandmother, to carnivals and sideshows.

I've read Bradbury all my life: as a child, when interplanetary spaceships seemed as real as the subway through Manhattan or the Coney Island Cyclone; as a castaway, when I was lost and he gave me a compass; and as a grownup, buying new hardcovers to replace the vanished paperbacks, while wondering how they will seem to my child.

Writing on the air in tribute, and bouncing these words off a satellite, seems a small but fitting remembrance.

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