Wednesday, June 6, 2012

thank you, Mr. Bradbury

There are a handful of authors whose storytelling and use of the English language made me want to be a writer, back when I was a kid. First it was the humor of Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, and Norton Juster, the atmosphere of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Madeleine L'Engle. Later I would pick up Douglas Adams, Tom Stoppard, and Oscar Wilde; Peter S. Beagle, Grace Paley, and Kurt Vonnegut. But right in the middle, in those formative years when brains and bones ache from growth, was Ray Bradbury.

I lost my first copy (my parents' copy) of The Illustrated Man loaning it out to someone -- which is fine, books are owned the way cats are owned: at their own will. But it looked like this:

The stories in it were creepy and quiet and sad and joyful. Its characters and scenes were alive, as surely as the illustrated man's tattoos, given breath and motion by Bradbury's distillation of the language. I have always interacted with the world best through writing, and the patterns in his words expanded my idea of what writing could be. Reading that book at that age was a paradigm shift.

I based my youth around writing because of shifts like that, and realized in college, somewhere around my eighth writing workshop in four years, that I enjoy editing far more. I'm skiving off gainful freelance editing employment right now to write this post. I do what I do because of writers like Bradbury.

I'm not a fan of everything he ever wrote, and being from the Internet myself, I'm slightly personally offended by some of the cantankerous things he said about computers and digital communication. But the world is a more wondrous place for his having been in it.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.