What was Bradbury's inspiration to me? In ninth grade -- except for Mad Magazine and Marvel comics -- I was a total non-reader. This was the era of the halter top, and, at 15, what could be more compelling than that?
A friend pressured me into reading Farenheit 451. I tried, in vain, to tell him I was not a reader, but he was persistent. I finally read it. Never before had it occured to me that ideas really mattered. With Farenheit 451, the world of ideas, and the idea that ideas were what mattered, was opened up to me. When I returned the book, he loaned me Martian Chronicles. I read that and returned it. I then went to a bookstore and bought every Bradbury book they had. I read all those.
I then went on to Clark, Asimov, Sturgeon, Ellison, Silverberg, Heinlein, Pohl, Tolkien, Niven, Herbert, etc. These guys, following Bradbury, introduced me to the fields of religion, philosophy, political philosophy, literature, fantasy, poetry. As an example of how this worked, a reading of "Starship Troopers" introduced me to the idea that a citizen should have to invest two years as a volunteer to earn the right to citizenship and the ability to vote. I was talking to my dad about this, and he pulled Plato's "Republic" off the shelf. I was thus introduced to philosophy. I went on the earn Masters Degrees in both Philosophy and Literature. This all goes back to a ninth grade reading (under duress) of Farenheit 451.
I still have to go back to Bradbury (and my other touchstone, Thoreau) to come alive to life and to who I really am.
Years ago, I purchased a copy of Knopf's collection of Bradbury's short stories. He was to be there to sign. Typical, hero-worshipping fanatic that I was, I showed up hours early, bought the book and was wandering around the store with his book under my elbow. They had not even set up the signing table yet. While looking at some books, a person behind me asked if I was there to see Ray Bradbury. When I turned around, it was him. He offered to sign my book so I wouldn't have to wait in line. I happily agreed. My regret is that I was so awe-struck, I couldn't tell him how much he had influenced my life. I see him as one of the central figures in my life. He introduced me to the world of ideas in all of it's written categories.
He is still a touchstone for me. One of my great joys when I teach is to introduce his work to someone who has not had that exposure, and who is turned on to Bradbury's version of the world of ideas and feeling.
Thanks, Ray. Thanks.
Whoa, Mr. Dark was a "junior member" once.
Hey, when I was reading this in the archives it had Mr. Dark listed as a junior member. I think this was his first post.
[This message has been edited by grasstains (edited 03-14-2006).]
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