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11 August 2003, 11:14 AM
Mr. Dark
Not a firebomb, at all. Perhaps a call to balance by a bunch of Bradbury fanatics?

I didn't find the review ALL negative, either; but I think the reviewer did get some things wrong. Of course, he's entitled to his opinions just as I'm entitled to mine.

With you, I agree that Bradbury has served as a gateway writer -- opening the doors of literature to persons who may not have gotten there without him. But he seems to imply that the other reading is "weightier fare" -- which, I think, underestimates the quality of Bradbury's own work. Many of us got turned on to Bradbury "back in the day", but returns to it as we've had more life experience have not disappointed, but rather have re-affirmed what a great writer he really is. While I never "faded" from Bradbury, my recent re-reading of DW has opened my eyes to some things about his writing I had not really grasped back in the high school readings. While I agree that he's opened to door to other literature -- I don't agree that the other literature is necessary "weightier fare". I think he stands up well to comparisons to other significant writers.

I like that the reviewer recognizes the "lyricism and quiet gravity" of Bradbury's work. These qualities hit me about Bradbury's writing, and as I re-read works, I am still impressed by those same qualities. Also, it seems a bit inconsistent to call other literature "weightier fare" and yet recognize the "quiet gavity" of Bradbury's work.

He recognizes Bradbury's role as introducing a new kind of Sci-Fi -- one that appeals to readers outside the "adolescent boys" category. I think that is a fair observation, also.

When Timberg says Bradbury is kind of a cross between Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe and Aesop's fables, then talks about Bradbury's creation of myths and metaphors; I can't imagine Ray being disappointed by that description and comparison -- as he cites these two writers as among the greats of all time.

The comparisons to California, to be honest, kind of went over my head. It's something I never thought about as I read Bradbury's stories. Since I'm not sure of the mythology of California in the way the reviewer writes about, I don't really know what he's talking about here.

The observation that Bradbury is associated with the future, while his values are rooted in the past is a pretty good observation. I'm not sure Bradbury would disagree with that, either.

"The pieces the author has collected in "Bradbury Stories" show a writer of sporadic gifts and limited curiosity. He doesn't seem to really know, or care, much about individual people. While some of the stories are strong, the volume reveals a deeply uneven writer who can't separate his most evocative, soulful work from what's flat and dashed off. The ones that don't connect are like little machines, built of premises that don't pan out, rigged for punch lines that don't punch, surprise endings that don't surprise. Because the stories are one-dimensional, lacking convincing characters or realized settings, they thud audibly when their machinery tires."

In this paragraph, Timberg looses me. "Sporadic gifts and limited curiosity"? I don't see this as being at all accurate. To say that you don't connect with some of the newer stories is fine, but to claim they show a writer of sporadic gifts and indicate a limited curiosity just does not comport with my reaction to Bradbury's writing. Even if you read the stories of O'Henry -- a writer known for his surprise endings -- once you're read the story once, subsequent readings will not evoke the same sense of surprise. That is not the nature of Ray's writings -- that's the nature of surprises. Once you've been there, the surprise element is gone. Re-readings focus instead on the pleasure of the language -- not the surprise ending.

Also, to call Ray a "deeply uneven" writer seems like a stretch. All writers have a range of success in their stories. While I have my preferences, also; I don't see the range as indicative of any "deep" unevenness in his talents.

To say that Ray shows limited interest in individuals seems a bit harsh, also; although Bradbury himself admits (or brags) that he writes mythology and metaphor. Nevertheless, to say he does not capture Douglas (in DW) or Montag or Clarisse or Beatty (in F451) or the boys/dad (in SWTTWC) is a stretch, also. He focuses on individuals as opposed to technology, after all. But at his best, he certainly shows an interest in and keen awareness of the individuals in his stories/novels.

I find his closing line a bit limited, also:

"Either way, this prose magician and elder statesman has found the common denominator between the Red Planet and Southern California. But he hasn't left us, like a major writer can, with a body of work that takes in all the world."

I'm not sure what the reviewer is trying to say when he says Bradbury's writing does not take in all the world and is thus not a major writer. Poe's focus was horror and psychological terror and insight; Hawthorne dealt with issues of guilt and hidden psychological observations in tales that are much like allegories; Hemingway dealt with existentialism and modern sensibilities; Fitzgerald dealt with issues of wealth, etc. All writers deal with a range of style, topic, genre, etc., and yet they are not typically criticized and labelled (implicitly) as minor writers for not taking in all the world.

I do see both good and bad in the review, but his comments diminishing Bradbury, well, they kind of "hurt my feelings".

[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 08-11-2003).]
11 August 2003, 12:12 PM
Mr. Dark,

As always, yours is the best take on these kinds of matters. All I can do is chime in.

Yes, the parts about Bradbury "sporadic gifts" and "limited curiosity" are puzzling. I think the same thing can be said about any writer's collected works of shorter writings. (I think your examples of Bradbury's powers of characterization point to the limits of short stories; you cited the longer works as examples but sometimes the shorter works just don't allow for greater characterizations. Sometimes, that's not the point.) I guess I didn't get this criticism myself, though, as I stated before, the California analogy worked for me in a way. (I think the California analogy also illustrates that even big-city critics aren't immune to provincialism. Imagine if I had tried to tie MC into the land-run here in Oklahoma!)

I think the good in this review far outweighs the bad and the bad simply points out the limitations of the reviewer himself, even though I might agree on a point or two on some of the negative. I understand and can relate to some of your "hurt feelings" but I think Bradbury is far greater than this reviewer gives him credit for so I'll try to salve my wounds with that.

I have complete faith that you'll be able to do the same.

11 August 2003, 01:02 PM
Mr. Dark
I'll try and limp through my hurt feelings.

Appreciated your comments. They forced me to go back through the review again and re-think some of my own original reactions to the review.

I agree with your comments that my examples of characters that were developed were from novels. I hadn't noticed that.

Sometimes, the assessment of a work reflects the critic more than the work itself. Ironically, in a way, some of the great critics tend to intrude themselves into the work more than the "minor" critics. It is the manifestation of their own style, focus and interpretive work that makes them such great critics. They are great because of their writing skill as much as or more than, for their interpretation of the text. Does that make any sense?

Again, appreciated your comments.
11 August 2003, 02:15 PM
Mr. Dark,

Your comment about critics inserting themselves in their work makes exceptional sense. I agree that, in some instances, it's less important what a critic says than how they go about saying it. But the same holds true for writer's in general. After all, there's nothing really new under the sun, is there? (Hmmm. I have a feeling that's been said somewhere before. And said in a way that's likely much better than I put it.) Unless the writer makes some kind of outlandish or immoral point, I think style trumps substance most every time.

Which brings me back to Bradbury. I think Bradbury's greatness lies in not only the territory that he covers (i.e. Mars presented in a manner like Winesburg, Ohio) but in the way he covers that territory.

Oh, and there was another thing that's been bothering me about this review but after re-reading your post I see you've already covered it. (That is, a great writer has a "world view.") I won't re-hash your point here other than to say again (and, again in a way that pales when compared to yours)that great writers don't necessarily take in all the world.

11 August 2003, 02:53 PM
Nard Kordell
If anything, it is this Pepperidge Farm comment that makes me consider the ineptness of the reviewer...
Similiar reaction I got from the movie, 'Pleasantville'...which I considered the most dangerous movie of this generation... Why?
(A) Totally 'immoral' movie making itself look like its moral.
(B) An absolutely stupid portrayal of people living right after a War that claimed 70 million lives world- wide. They are depicted as if they have no sense of common-sense.
11 August 2003, 03:12 PM
Green Shadow
The problem or cleverness of this review is that Timberg's barbs are sandwiched around interesting commentary. Unfortunately, most people remember and quote negative comments from reviews (so I won't cite any).

The thought of Bradbury as a "gateway drug" is a slap in the face to serious readers (and adolescent boys). This idea demeans his work to the level of a comic book.

The worst and final sentence of this review had the temerity to state that Bradbury is not a major writer. Says who?
11 August 2003, 03:28 PM

I know this isn't a Pleasantville site but you touched on something about that movie that bothered me in some ways. Since it was broadcast the other night, I got a chance to watch it finally and was disappointed, to say the least. On a parable level, it worked fine, but on a broader level, it seemed to be telling me something that was much more disturbing. I don't know if I'd call it the most dangerous movie of this generation but I would consider it dishonest.

I don't know exactly what my comment has to do with Bradbury but there it is.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled discussion. . .

11 August 2003, 05:00 PM
About the movie, "Pleasantville", I immediately found it provocative because it supported the premise that we live in Technicolor only when we embrace certain aspects of humanity. The black and white reality was confined to a cookie-cutter existence. The visual effects in this movie were nothing short of intoxicating.

Clearly, there were disadvantages and advantages to each existence,( i.e., promiscuity and sexual awareness in one reality, morally-straight families and male-dominant society) through the other. Since we all want to live each day in Technicolor, the plot forced the audience to chose one existence over another. There was no gray area. And that�s why it bothers some people.

What I find amazing about Ray�s work, is that he embraces the best of all options, breathing a Technicolor life into his characters like those in Dandelion Wine while giving dimension and individuality to them. Do we really want to know about Douglas� sex life anyway?
11 August 2003, 05:03 PM
Nard Kordell

Thanks, Pete.
11 August 2003, 05:12 PM
Nard Kordell

I still stand my own personal vendetta of 'Pleasantville'.
I was so irked by the showing of it I nearly asked for my money back at the ticket counter. Actually, I don't know why I didn't. Perhaps I figured the ticket girl or manager wouldn't care much if I did and that wasn't the point. I wanted someone else to REALLY know how it bothered me.

I find it very dangerous because.... another generation is always on the horizon, dumb as bunnies. Unless God gives out grace beyond measure to one's intellect, or surrounds with total protection from the morass of wrong decisions, human nature will embrace 'Pleasantville'. What makes color to ones life... is sex. THAT is all the movie is teaching.

Quite a few years ago I had a short story appear in a small publication in Sausalito, California. It had to do with a society where everything is absolutely squeaky clean. No illness, no sickness, no disease. So, no one ever knows the 'experience' of such affliction. But there is a man, hidden away, who actually has a terrible rash, and it is a story about one person driven to find that person, to acquire the transmitted rash, and discover an emotion gone from society. Illness.

Did you ever read Ray Bradbury's,
"The lllustrated Woman"?
We are forced to look sexually where we might not look otherwise, and find NO offence. Now ...THAT'S 'ART'!

[This message has been edited by Nard Kordell (edited 08-11-2003).]
12 August 2003, 05:11 AM
Originally posted by Nard Kordell:

Unless God gives out grace beyond measure to one's intellect, or surrounds with total protection from the morass of wrong decisions, human nature will embrace 'Pleasantville'. What makes color to ones life... is sex. THAT is all the movie is teaching.

What? You mean that isn't true?

Quite a few years ago I had a short story appear in a small publication in Sausalito, California. It had to do with a society where everything is absolutely squeaky clean. No illness, no sickness, no disease. So, no one ever knows the 'experience' of such affliction. But there is a man, hidden away, who actually has a terrible rash, and it is a story about one person driven to find that person, to acquire the transmitted rash, and discover an emotion gone from society. Illness.

Did you ever read Ray Bradbury's, "The lllustrated Woman"?

Yes. Did YOU ever read the short story "Dark Benediction," by Walter M. Miller, Jr., and the novel "The Giver," by Lois Lowry? (The first two examples which spring to mind--"Fahrenheit 451" is also not out of place on the list.)

12 August 2003, 11:28 PM
Ought Not

I agree with you on this. The movie had potential with the great Don Knotts as the tv repairman, I thought. But after awhile it was horrible. And really the movie made me of all things ticked off at the sixties. Oh well, maybe I was just looking forward to the sequel of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken?
13 August 2003, 04:37 PM
Cougar Spaulding
Everyone has ups and downs, and even the greatest writers are often "uneven" in the quality of their output. I think the LA Times critic makes some good points, but he obviously isn't a Bradbury fan and doesn't really understand what Bradbury is about. As for me, my own childhood has so many parallels with Bradbury's, it's no wonder I favored "Dandelion Wine" and his more fantastic stories when I was a boy. Back then, I didn't care for the Mexican and Irish stories because they weren't about Mars or Venus. Having re-read them after I had matured a little, I can appreciate them much more. A fly can bite a horse, but the horse is still a horse and the fly is still a fly--and the critic is still only a critic.
13 August 2003, 05:35 PM
Mr. Dark
Here's my [rejected] review of the book. I'm not good at getting published, but I'm getting better at rejection:

Dallas Morning News
Books Editor: Cheryl Chapman
Arts Sunday
Submission of book review.
Bradbury Stories: 100 of Bradbury�s Most Celebrated Tales
Ray Bradbury
William Morrow/HarperCollins. 2003.

Rarely do astronomical events of historic significance align to celebrate a collection of short stories, but this year Mars will be closer to earth than it has been in 50,000+ years � coinciding with Ray Bradbury�s 83rd birthday on August 22nd and with the publication of the new collection of his stories released on August 5th. Bradbury�s name is aligned with the planet Mars, perhaps more than that of any other author in history.

This alignment is, in some ways unfortunate, as Bradbury�s range of fiction covers a range of topics, locales, and themes far outside the penumbra of the planet Mars. His range extends far beyond science fiction, as this new collection ably attests. Some readers, assuming he is a �science fiction� writer, are not being exposed to writing that is at once sensitive, creative, surprising and lyrical.

In the writer�s Los Angeles home in June, my daughter and I were impressed with his enthusiasm for this upcoming collection. In spite of his age, and the fact that he has suffered from a stroke, we were impressed by the vivacity of his intellect, the sheer joy he exhibits in telling stories from his own life, and the ongoing passion he has for writing and for story-telling. While his body has slowed down, his mind seems as keen and active as ever.

This anthology is a supplement to, not a replacement for, the large anthology published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1980 (still in print). In this new collection, the range of stories selected covers a wide range of his work over a long period of time.

The stories are selected by Bradbury and are accompanied by a brief introduction where he discusses the nature of writing and gives background on a selection of the stories in the book.

�Writing, for me, is akin to breathing. It is not something I plan or schedule; it�s something I just do. All the stories collected in this book seized on me at the strangest hours, compelling me to head for my typewriter and put them down on paper before they went away . . . I�ve never been in charge of my stories, they�ve always been in charge of me. As each new one has called to me, ordering me to give it voice and form and life, I�ve followed the advice I�ve shared with other writers over the years: Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.�

The sense of style and mood in many of these stories reflects this passionate approach to his art. Many of the stories seem to come alive as they are read, capturing his focus on on-going creativity and life. For Bradbury, life is for �being alive,� and that moral imperative is visible in every story.

Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne are often cited by Bradbury as exemplary writers and their sensitivities are reflected in many of the stories in this collection. Hawthorne wrote that he wanted his short fiction to be called tales, rather than stories. He wanted to write of a world that was between fantasy and fiction, allowing him to speak in more broad terms about the nature of man. Bradbury has the same kind of sensibility in his stories. He writes of a world that can be experienced as being quite real in one�s mind, but that the reader knows is just outside his or her empirical grasp. Poe is able to get psychologically inside the mind of his characters to a degree that is rarely matched. Bradbury has a similar gift for creating an �honest� interior world in some of his characters and thus enables the reader to experience the protagonist�s view of the world.

Several stories draw from two major novels that have been structured in a way similar to Sherwood Anderson�s �Winesburg, Ohio� and Ernest Hemingway�s �In Our Time�. They are essentially individual stories capable of standing on their own, but are tied together in �The Martian Chronicles� and �Dandelion Wine� by theme, setting and character. Several stories from each collection are represented here, in addition to scores of stories from other sources.

In �June 2001: And The Moon Be Still As Bright� the story is told of an expedition of men to Mars. They are the Fourth expedition. The three previous expeditions have failed. When they land, they find that the Martian cities are empty and that every fifth city has recent Martian corpses. The ship�s doctor determines that they have died of Chicken pox, meaning that at least one of the earlier expeditions had actually made it. One of the men is devastated that such beauty, such an ancient society can be wiped out:

�Chicken pox, God, chicken pox, think of it! A race builds itself for a million years, refines itself, erects cities like those out there, does everything it can to give itself respect and beauty, and then it dies. Part of it dies slowly, in its own time, before our age, with dignity. But the rest! Does the rest of Mars die of a disease with a fine name or a terrifying name or a majestic name? No, in the name of all that�s holy, It has to be chicken pox, a child�s disease, a disease that doesn�t even kill children on Earth! It�s not right and it�s not fair! It�s like saying the Greeks died of mumps, or the proud Romans died on their beautiful hills of athlete�s foot!�

As the story progresses, one member becomes obsessed with Mars� history and culture and enters into conflict with the other voyagers who, in his view, treat the new planet in a disrespectful way. He ends up murdering some of them and, in the end, is hunted down and killed. The dialogue about the difference between beauty and crassness and the issues of psychological instability and other traits are reflective of why Bradbury�s novel, �The Martian Chronicles� had such an impact on the science fiction community when it was published. Bradbury was a bit too poetic for Science fiction. He appeared to be anti-science and anti-technology. But the truth is that Bradbury has always been pro-people. While anticipating future technological innovations in his writing, Bradbury�s focus has always been on the nature of mankind.

The stories cover a very wide range of types: science fiction, fantasy, nostalgic fiction, straight fiction, and include themes from what it means to be human, to musings on the nature of religion, to how man has repeatedly destroyed things that were once beautiful. In many of his best stories, there is a sense of discontinuity and imbalance that is present in the person struggling to find meaning. In the midst of it all, however, there is a great sense, in Bradbury�s writing, of his sympathy for the individual person trying to make sense of his or her life in a world that is often a bit bizarre.
13 August 2003, 06:28 PM
I haven't started the book yet, but I really enjoyed your review, Mr. Dark!!