Wednesday, June 06, 2012

I Sing the Body Literate

Last night Earth lost one of our most brilliant and imaginative literary minds when Ray Bradbury passed away at the age of 91. Bradbury's books were the first to introduce me to the world of adult literature as well as science fiction, and probably the first to inspire in me the desire to write.

It was around 1970, I was about 10 or so, when I picked up a copy of The Martian Chronicles. From those first pages of Rocket Summer I was hooked. For a kid in Boston, who grew up following our conquest of space and landing on the Moon, the images came through clearly. The heat of the rockets, leaving for Mars, melting the Ohio snow were vivid in my imagination. By the end of the book, There Will Come Soft Rains, was etched equally into my thoughts and my life.

There were other "young adult" authors that I read in that period. Of course, S.E. Hinton's books were all on my shelf. The Hinton books were great for a kid who felt like an Outsider, and also helped teach me about literature. But the Bradbury books took me further, outside of myself, and into a universe of possibilities and morality.

I read more of Bradbury's short stories (The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl comes to mind) and novels, and later saw the movies that came from them. Truffaut's excellent adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 being the first, and later The Illustrated Man, starring Rod Steiger. That movie could not compare to the images that Bradbury illustrated through his prose, although to this day, when I see somebody with excessive tattooing, I hear Steiger's voice in the back of my head saying, "They are not tattoos; they are skiiiin eellustrationz."

And, of course, there was the Twilight Zone episode he wrote, I Sing the Body Electric. Many include this among the worst Zone episodes for its dripping sentimentality, but I always found comfort in Bradbury's melding of technology with heart.

Bradbury was not himself a "techie" or mechanical person. He never drove since witnessing a car accident when younger, and was afraid to fly. I learned that second bit of trivia from Bradbury's appearance as a contestant on "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx. It came out through Groucho's interview with him at the top of the show. I don't recall whether or not Bradbury said the magic word triggering the duck to come down with $100.

The soft rains have come. Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

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