|Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Of course, I only ever knew the man through his works, but he sure taught me a lot about what our language can do.
Ray Bradbury is one of those literary artists whose work straddles the line between prose and poetry. He’s the one who taught me that there is so much more to a great story than just the story, that there’s so much beauty just in the words themselves, the way they string together and sound and feel on our lips, regardless of what they actually mean.
Ray Bradbury, for me, was a wonderful poet who just didn’t worry about adding those incessant line breaks that make poems look like what we think poems should look like.
Consider the beginning of The Martian Chronicles:
One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.Read that passage out loud. Listen to the words. Feel the words on your lips and tongue.
And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer’s ancient green lawns.
“...housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.” This could be a line straight out of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” And can’t you just feel the pulsations when you say “cottages and bushes and children”?
And consider the images that he forces into your mind! Can you see the closed-up buildings, the housewives, the icicles?
Or this bit, from later in the book:
See all the carnival lights? There are beautiful boats as slim as women, beautiful women as slim as boats, women the color of sand, women with fire flowers in their hands. I can see them, small, running in the streets there. That’s where I’m going now, to the festival; we’ll float on the waters all night long; we’ll sing, we’ll drink, we’ll make love. Can’t you see it?Can’t you see it? This isn’t just narrative. This isn’t Hemingway-esque simplicity. This is using language to create not just a story, but an artwork. This is the difference between a lecture on the Spanish Civil War and Salvador Dalí’s “Premonition of Civil War.”
It’s poetry, pure and simple.
|Salvador Dalí's Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) (1936) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Ray Bradbury wrote so many beautiful sentences.
There are some who say it’s difficult to feel sad about the passing of a man who lived a full life into his nineties. But that’s the thing about heroes. It isn’t enough to cling to that metaphor that they will live forever in your heart; we want our heroes to live forever in the hearts of everyone. We want our heroes to be everyone's heroes.
And Ray Bradbury was one of my heroes. Still is.
I have to wonder if he had any idea how important and instructive and inspirational his work was to me and to millions of readers and writers like me. I hope he did. I hope he died knowing that the world was a better place because of what he did during his short time on it.
But I shouldn’t have to wonder. It’s a simple thing to let our heroes know, while they’re still alive, what influence they've had on us. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t know that they are our heroes, that their lives extend beyond their bodies and into the hearts and minds of others.
So I encourage you today, right now, to write to your heroes — to your favorite author, or artist, or politician, or teacher — whoever it is that has pointed you toward your definition of success, or excellence, or happiness. Tell them how they have changed you. Let them know that the world, or at least your world, is better for having had them in it.
And do it now, before your heroes are gone.